Alex Pegg

Belle & Sebastian
"If You're Feeling Sinister"

26th February 2004
reviewer: Alex Pegg
rating: 5 out of 5
published by: Jeepster
released: 18th November 1996
  1. The Stars Of Track And Field
  2. Seeing Other People
  3. Me And The Major
  4. Like Dylan In The Movies
  5. The Fox In The Snow
  6. Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying
  7. If You're Feeling Sinister
  8. Mayfly
  9. The Boy Done Wrong Again
  10. Judy And The Dream Of Horses

Second albums are notoriously difficult. You’ve used all your best songs on the debut album, so what’s left in the bag for the follow up? When your songwriting’s as good as Stuart Murdoch’s (Belle & Sebastian's lead songwriter and singer) it’s obviously not a problem.

The band’s sound is a mix of folk, rock and pop and sounds both delicate and tuneful, with guitars, some excellent bass playing, and mouth organ fusing into a very pleasing whole. But whilst the music is (more often than not) cheery, the lyrics are fantastically dark giving the album a very satisfying depth.

The album has tunes to spare with almost every song being instantly catchy and great fun to listen to. Only ‘The Boy Done Wrong Again’ has a stark, morose sound to it but coming, as it does, towards the end of the album, it fits in perfectly before the uplifting ‘Judy And The Dream Of Horses’ which ends things on a high.

Lyrically Stuart Murdoch is up there with the greats, such as Morrissey, in his mastery of the written word. Some of the couplets will literally put a smile on your face or a tear in your eye, such is their power. On the opening track ‘Stars Of Track And Field’ we hear about the boy Murdoch “never rated, and now he’s throwing discus for Liverpool and Widnes”.

He also tackles as wide a variety of subjects as Mozza. On ‘Me And The Major’ we get an accurate assessment of the generation gap as a young fellow tells us of his relationship with an old military man who he sits next to on the train. Again the perfectly balanced sing-a-long lyrics cut straight to the chase: “I think the Major’s going quite insane, He goes along the pavement and comes back again, Like he’s on parade … At least he thinks so”.

The title track concerns both suicide and religion and makes perfect sense of the album’s title. As the verses progress we hear about a couple of people who cant deal with life and the chorus tells us that “If you’re feeling sinister go off and see a minister, He’ll try in vain to take away the pain of being a hopeless unbeliever”. However the payoff comes in the last verse where he tells us ‘Chances are you’ll probably feel better if you stayed and played with yourself’. Absolute genius.

This is an almost perfect album. It’s an album to be played on any occasion every day. Go out and buy it … Now.