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.
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.
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 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.