Self-imposed publicity hermits that they are, it’s a minor miracle that Scottish octet Belle & Sebastian is known in the U.S. at all. More press friendly pop groups like Dodgy, Big Wednesday, and Silver Sun have never even gotten an American release. However, it’s our good luck that we get Belle & Sebastian, who excel at creating perfect, pristine, pastoral pop music with a refined lyrical sensibility. The Boy With The Arab Strap is a richer and more varied affair than even their stellar U.S. debut If You’re Feeling Sinister.
Leading off the new effort, “It Could Have Been A Brilliant Career” sports a strong storyline and a rather twee vocal that is reminiscent of late ‘60s Simon and Garfunkel. “Sleep The Clock Around” throws in some new wavey sythesizers, including a bit that sounds suspiciously like bagpipes, to broaden out the musical approach. “Ease Your Feet In The Sea” and “A Summer Wasting” features a rhythmic and melodic sophistication worthy of Burt Bacharach.
While often tossed into the folk-pop camp of Donovan and Simon and Garfunkel, Belle & Sebastian are more at home in the elegant pop camp occupied by legends such as Bacharach and Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys and the glorious Europop on the Marina and Siesta record labels.