Sunday, February 10, 2008

Belle & Sebastian - Funny Little Frog

(Rough Trade, 2005)

Until The Life Pursuit, Belle and Sebastian had kept a remarkably tidy discography. You had your albums and you had your EPs and that was it. No spreading of B-sides across multi-part singles and pricey import editions (with a few minor exceptions, like the extended “Judy is a Dick Slap” on the “Legal Man” 12”). So imagine how I cursed the heavens when, in 2005, the band started releasing singles with different tracks on different formats… now a guy needs to buy a CD, a 7”, and a DVD in order to collect all the latest B-sides. So it goes. Luckily my wallet is so fat.

Belle and Sebastian’s arrangements have become ever more intricate over the years – especially since their work on the Storytelling soundtrack – and the bright, brassy “Funny Little Frog” continues the trend. The upbeat, sophisticated Hazlewoodisms heard here are miles from the fragile acoustic sobfests that characterized the earliest B&S records; this is a fun, attention-grabbing pop hit. Stuart Murdoch has also widened his lyrical scope significantly since the late ’90s and, in the process, become quite the humorist; this song, for example, is sung from the perspective of a fellow who “dates” a girl who is perfect but doesn’t actually know him. Clever stuff, ol’ Stuart! Rough times on the flip, where it’s hard to care too much about “The Eighth Station of the Cross Kebab House, ” a track that seems to be about an Israeli-Palestianian cross-cultural love affair and is driven by an almost Latin beat. Musically, it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the era’s material, and it’s appropriate that it has been relegated to B-side status. Still, it’s certainly not the strongest song with which to usher in the era in which completists are expected to shell out for every B&S import 7” to hit the racks…

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