You see, I’ve never owned a copy of this album, but I’ve borrowed it from various people at various times in my life. Belle and Sebastian were one of those people that I always seemed to have an odd relationship to. I first discovered them from a recorded tape found in a bundle of my brother’s tapes and promptly stolen because I liked the sound of the words. It was a short tape, one of those 60 minute ones, and the script of the handwriting was neat and large (ie not belonging to a member of my family) and it didn’t say anything about what album it was. I later worked out that it was in fact a compilation of all the early eps, which I later bought.
That taped was listened to about a thousand times. It had such a strange atmosphere to it. All of these heart rending love songs with light naive melodies had a massive appeal to my overly romantic and unconfident gangling teenage soul. There was the weird spoken word track about Elvis (actually about a cat called Elvis) that I loved simply for the phrase ‘I used to think my dad was Elvis’. There was the track ‘Belle and Sebastian’, which seemed so sad, all lamenting the uselessness of two young lovers.
I barely ever put together the stories of the tracks. But the lyrics always spoke to me. At the time I’d barely had my heart broken, I just seemed to want it so bad. I was that kind of teen. My crushes were world ending, unrequited and doomed. That seemed to be the way I liked them. Still, there was always something about the lyrics.
Anyway, eventually I scraped together enough money to buy Tigermilk, the first album, which was re-released after the green and the red ones. I then slowly built up my collection, making very good friends with Amazon. I borrowed ‘If you’re feeling sinister’ for the first time off a girl called Katriona, who became a close friend through the girl who was then of course the love of my life (who later became an incredibly good friend). Anyway, her Dad had the most fantastically huge CD collection I’ve ever seen. And Sinister was my first plunder.
The first time I listened to it I was in love again. Totally and utterly lost in it. I borrowed it for about six months before I had to give it back. Then I borrowed it from my first girlfriend for another six months, then I had to give it back. I think this happened with about three or four different people, I’d borrow it for months on end. Listening to it solidly whenever I had it. But for some reason I never bought it. This was most weird because I bought every other release they made. At least up until they ‘sold out’ and started releasing singles that were actually attached to albums rather than just being seperate four track eps. They also became really over-produced and a bit to obviously poppy. This pissed me off.
But it will never hurt my relationship with Sinister.
I feel like I’ve always known all the words. That’s the thing. They were ingrained in my head before I’d ever heard it. They make so much sense.
Those who’ve heard me talk about music before know that I often don’t put much stock in lyrics. But with B&S it’s always been different. A massive chunk of it is about the lyrics. In my early days of Secondary school I used to just write out chunks of lyrics and the names of songs all over my exercise books. There’s a really haunting poetry in a lot of those songs. Most of it’s bittersweet and painful, most of it is really really sad and heart rending, but optimistic at the same time. There’s a lovely and beautiful world view in there. The lovely in everything is magnified, but at the same time there’s brutal heartbreak everywhere.
I’ll tell you what as well. I can’t even begin to count the number of times that the lyrics have been intensely relevant to my life. I swear I’ve been the ‘couple’ in ‘Seeing Other People’. The kids in ‘Get me away from here I’m dying’ too. I’ve met at least one girl who’s into S&M and bible studies. I’ve felt intense empathy for a fox walking in the snow. I’ve stayed and played with myself instead of going to church. I’ve fallen in love with photos. I’ve had those kind of break ups. I’ve had those kind of weirdly selfish arguments. I’ve calculated the right way to say something to cause maximum hurt and hated myself for it.
I know it’s probably me projecting. It definitely was when I first got the album. I liked to pretend I knew what feelings were like…but it took a while to really realise what happens when you fall in love. (It turns out it is agony…who woulda thunk it).
Maybe my whole life took it’s course because I wanted it so much. I didn’t appreciate what they were saying so I adopted this bittersweet, romantic and naive point of view and then it spent the rest of my life trying to get me into certain shapes of situations.
Maybe it’s all a conspiracy.
I don’t know.
So here are the words from the last two verses of ‘Get me Away from here I’m dying’. I think this is actually about me. Possibly about me right now. The first verse actually says a lot of what I wanted to say above. The second first is kind of a damning indictment of how I can be sometimes. If only because I love the phrase daming indictment. But no seriously, these lyrics touch my soul somewhere I don’t let my soul get touched as often as I should.
Oh, I’ll settle down with some old story
About a boy who’s just like me
Thought there was love in everything and everyone
You’re so naive!
They always reach a sorry ending
They always get it in the end
Still it was worth it as I turned the pages solemnly, and then
With a winning smile, the poor boy
With naivety succeeds
At the final moment, I cried
I always cry at endings
Oh, that wasn’t what I meant to say at all
From where I’m sitting, rain
Falling against the lonely tenement
Has set my mind to wander
Into the windows of my lovers
They never know unless I write
“This is no declaration, I just thought I’d let you know goodbye”
Said the hero in the story
“It is mightier than swords
I could kill you sure
But I could only make you cry with these words”