The BBC Sessions

Belle And Sebastian

Matador, 2008

REVIEW BY: Kenny S. McGuane


Unanimously hailed in late 2008 as one of the year’s best releases, Belle & Sebastian’s The BBC Sessions documents some of the adored Scottish indie bubblegum-pop group’s live in-studio performances from 1996-2001. Indeed the double album, which features a second disc of Belle & Sebastian’s 2001 concert in Belfast, serves as a welcomed artifact of the ever-popular group during their heyday as one of the last decade’s most important bands.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

One must be cautious, though and note that perhaps some of its praise was overstated, because the album is really the only thing listeners and critics have heard from Belle & Sebastian since 2006’s excellent The Life Pursuit. A new studio album would have been much preferred, and as it stands now, although the band is not officially broken up, there are no plans for any future recording.

Heartbreaking as that may be, The BBC Sessions is a necessary release, even if only for the most dedicated of fans. The trouble with the album is that while it showcases Belle & Sebastian at their chamber-pop best, the live versions of songs like “The State I Am In,” “Like Dylan In The Movies,” and “The Stars Of Track And Field” are utterly and boringly identical to their respective studio counterparts. This evaluation holds true for every song in the collection. However, of particular value are the last four tracks, “Shoot The Sexual Athlete,” “The Magic Of A Kind Word,” “Nothing In The Silence,” and “(My Girl’s Got) Miraculous Technique,” which until now have been sort of lost in the bootleg world and they are preserved here in all their perfected sonic glory.

So in the end it’s safe to say that The BBC Sessions is a long overdue compilation and one which any serious Belle & Sebastian collector will undoubtedly cry over…not in the bad way, but in the silly indie pop snob sort of way. It’s just not a record any casual listener should bother with. If Matador really wants to cash in on B&S’s legacy, they need to prep a Best Of album and then include a bonus disc of essential live cuts.

Fingers crossed for a new studio album. Pretty please.

Rating: B

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© 2009 Kenny S. McGuane and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Matador, and is used for informational purposes only.