Blog : Posts tagged with 'Belle & Sebastian'

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The Artist’s Dilemma

In which we discuss music and advertising


It’s a question that must come to every artist and musician who starts to get successful. Sell out, or not sell out? And what is “selling out” anyway? What about advertising? Do you license your music for use in advertising, knowing you’ll effectively lose control over how it’s presented?1 Maintain artistic integrity, or go for the money? There are some bands whose oeuvre will, forevermore, be thought of as “oh, it’s that song off that advert, you know, that one for thingy, that stuff.” – the Penguin Cafe Orchestra being a prime example.2

I was rather pleased when I was idly watching late-night telly the other month, and a bouncy Casiolike tune popped up in the ad-break. It was “Summer’s Gone”, an early track by a very good (and little-known) Scottish band, Aberfeldy. if you want to track it down, it’s on their first album, Young Forever, released by Rough Trade.3 Good to hear a little-known band on the telly; good to think they’ll be getting some money for it.

Less good, though, to see that it was being used to advertise an online gambling company. If I was Riley Briggs – the chap who formed the band and wrote the song – I’m not sure I’d be happy about that. I wouldn’t want my music to be used that way. I wouldn’t want to be associated with gambling; the only saving grace being, 99.3%4 of the people who see the advert will never have heard of the band.5 The song will seep into their memories without them really knowing it, until they hear it again by some offchance on the radio and think: hang on, don’t I know this from somewhere. It’s a hard call. Do you take the money and the airplay, or do you take the high moral stance? I’m glad it’s not a question I’ve had to face yet in life. What would you do?

1: Or, for that matter, for TV. Belle and Sebastian, another of my favourite bands, have been used many times over the years as TV and soundtrack filler material; most famously, the title track from their third album The Boy With The Arab Strap was used, without lyrics, as the theme music of the Bristol-set comedy-drama series Teachers. I’m sure I recall, when the band were asked, saying that they weren’t able to say yes or no to that or any other specific TV use of the music; they’d granted a blanket license and that was that. On the other hand, unsurprisingly for a band with a socialist and Presbyterian background, they don’t (I think) let their music be used in advertising.

2: PCO might have been helped slightly by the death of MFI, who used their well-known “Music For A Found Harmonium”; I doubt, though, that anyone now who hears their best-known track “Telephone And Rubber Band” thinks of the band first. The Jesus And Mary Chain might be heading this way – we’ve heard “Just Like Honey” an awful lot on TV lately, most strangely as incidental music on Hollyoaks.

3: and it must have come out a long, long time ago now, going by where I lived when I bought it. For that matter, their second album – released just before Rough Trade dropped them – must also be a few years old, because I picked it up in Avalanche Records on my last trip to Glasgow.

4: If there’s one thing I learned from the vegetarian food roadshow we went to, it’s to use invented and ridiculously precise statistics with panache and confidence.

5: According to that famous encyclopaedia, the same song has been used to advertise Diet Coke in the USA. So I’d bet that by far the vast majority of people worldwide who have heard an Aberfeldy song, have heard that song, on an advert.

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Slip-up (part two)

In which tastes keep changing (again)


When Belle and Sebastian released their last album, a couple of months back, I wrote that clearly I’m not a true fan any more, because I didn’t buy it until the second day of release.

Well, it took me an entire week to realise that they’d released another single. By today, when I finally bought The Blues Are Still Blue, it was already in the charts.

Of course, I still had to buy it, on lovely blue vinyl. Apart from being a sad geek, it’s one of my favourite songs on the album, with a particularly glam feel to it. The sleeve is blue, of course, but it’s a warm, dusky, beautiful shade.* All round, it’s a great piece of work.

* I don’t just love Stuart Murdoch’s songs and singing, I love his photography too.

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Short snippets

In which things are fragmentary


Blogging has been sporadic this week, because I haven’t been too well. I’m still not well, but I thought I’d make an effort. In case you’re wondering, it isn’t because of you. It’s lots of little things all building up together: stress at work from my boss, stress at work from the perpetual office redecoration, and the feeling of eternal loneliness you get when you’re spurned on multiple interweb dating sites* at once. I’ve tried not to tell you about that.

Similarly, this post is lots of little pieces. It’s because I’ve been reading Troubled Diva Xtra, which is to normal blogs what crack is to cocaine.

Seeing Dunfermline in the news has brought back memories, particularly of walking past Gordon Brown’s rather nice house. Pointless trivia: he’s a near neighbour of Iain Banks – I wonder if he voted Liberal.

Tonight, for the first time, I watched the DVD which came with the new Belle and Sebastian album. I think I vaguely remember someone putting out an appeal for people to dress up in 70s-style clothes and go to the DVD filming. The main thing I noticed about the audience:** they look just like 00s hipsters trying to dress in a 70s style – because that’s what they are, obviously – and nothing at all like actual 1970s people.***

More search hits: “the it crowd zx81″ and “the it crowd camel”. For reference, if you saw it and were wondering, the camel picture on the set of The IT Crowd is the mascot of Perl, the wonderful and spaghetti-like computer language, whose official documentation includes comments like “if you think this [basic feature] is weird, that’s because it is.” Must get this post finished before the next IT Crowd episode is on the telly.

A search hit too far: “suzie dent topless”. What sort of sick, twisted daytime telly fan are you?

Proper posts I promise I’ll write soon: Jan Mark and Zeno Was Here; a longer piece on the Dunfermline byelection; the return of Books I’ve Never Managed To Read; My Slightly Barking Holiday; a proper review of the B&S DVD; and I might even finish writing about ravens in mythology. Oh, and anyone who can find at least three of my online personal ads will get a Special Extra Bonus Prize which I haven’t thought up yet. In fact, suggestions for a Special Extra Bonus Prize are welcome too.

* Both vanilla and otherwise.

** apart from the woman in nice boots in the front row.

*** I have to admit, I’m going by photographs here.

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Slip-up

In which we listen to music


Clearly I’m not a Belle and Sebastian fan any more. I can’t be, because I forgot to go out and buy their new album on Monday, when it was released. I did remember to go and get it yesterday, though, and now I’ve got around to listening to it.

If I was still a fan, I probably wouldn’t like it very much, because it isn’t in quite the same style as their first three classic albums. On the other hand, as it says in the sleevenotes, in a response to criticisms like that:

Do you think and do the exact same things you did nine years ago?

One track does sound rather like an attempt at a T-Rex impersonation; but, in general, I have to say: I like this record more than I was expecting to.

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Growing up

In which we remember what we used to like


Tastes change as people grow up. Things you are a huge fan of will slowly fade away, and other things will come along to replace them. Your tastes will change, as you change.

Some of you might have heard of Alexis Petridis, rock and pop critic at The Guardian. I don’t always agree with what he writes, but I tend to pay attention. Because, back in about ’97 or ’98, Petridis was a semi-frequent contributor to Sinister, the mailing list for fans of Belle and Sebastian. I was only a lurker, but I remember his posts, on topics such as: do Belle and Sebastian sound better when you’re on drugs? And if so which ones?*

Since then, when Petridis has mentioned them in the Grauniad, you get the feeling that he doesn’t so much like what they’ve become. He doesn’t think much of devoted fans, but he still loves their early work. And I have to sympathise with that. I, too, used to be a devoted fan.

I’m still a bit of a fan. I’m still the sort of person who will go and buy a new single on its first day of release, for example, like I did yesterday. And then, I get it home, and find that I’m not really very interested in it any more. Compared to their old songs, it’s lost something. It’s brassy and polished, shiny and bland, the sort of track that has never been at all interesting or inspiring for me. Their sleeve designs get better and better,** as the music gets ever-more over-produced. The B-sides are better, but even so it’s not something that I would have bought if it were by any other band.

* No, really, this was something he wrote. The list archive doesn’t work nowadays, so I can’t link you to it; but I strongly remember reading it. I have no idea now if he was being serious or not.

** although I was disappointed to see that they are still crediting the odious Patrick Doyle with helping with the sleeve photography. He’s someone else who was on Sinister, a few years later, one of those people who hero-worshipped Stuart Murdoch and would desperately and deliberately try to appear as twee, fey and indie as possible because he thought that was how a B&S fan should look.

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