I bought Belle & Sebastian’s ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’ the other day and didn’t like it enormously. I know that’s tantamount to treason round these parts and I’ll get lynched at dawn but I have to be honest.
It starts well with ‘It Could Have Been A Brilliant Career.’ This is a wonderful, light, airy strawberry trifle of a pop song. It’s ace just for the rising twiddly bassline in the chorus. The album goes downhill from here. I was listening to it with a mate of mine and when I asked him if he’d buy it he said, “Well, I’ve already got ‘Sinister’ so what’s the point?” That’s pretty accurate. I really, really wanted to love this album but I’ve listened to the bugger three times now and very little stays in my head. It’s all alright…but apart from ‘Career’ there’s nothing that grabs me like ‘The State’ or ‘Stars of T&F.’ Okay, I’m done – you can start throwing the rocks.
An album I preferred to B&S was Spearmint’s ‘Songs For the Colour Yellow.’ This pissed all over B&S and it’s not even a “proper” album, ostensibly being a collection of early stuff and b-sides. I only caught onto Spearmint when they did ‘Sweeping The Nation’ and I was quite surprised by how punky the earlier tracks are. But unlike B&S, what you also get from these 14 tracks is a sense of progression, of experimentation and a band looking beyond their limits. I like overarching ambition. So, whereas ‘Goldmine’ is a punky stomper of a track in an almost Godfathers way, the second track is Henry Mancini piano pumping crossed with Bernard Herrman.
I guess if I had to pigeonhole them, Spearmint would be a Postcard band (or perhaps at a stretch, El) whereas B&S are definitely Sarah. Which is ironic since Matt Shinkansen doesn’t really like them that much. What gives Spearmint the edge over B&S is the structure of their songs. If you’re doing guitar pop, choruses, bridges, and verses matter. Even when Spearmint are being wacky, as on ‘Colour Yellow’ it’s still very singalong. This is a very poppy, singalong album. ‘Scared Of Everything’ sort of reminds me of Mega City Four at their best – honest and driving. Honestly, every song is good. This is meant to be a b-sides comp and all these tracks are better than all the current schmindy greats a-sides put together.
There’s a versatility Spearmint have that B&S lack. They’ll do anything to get a song across, us any instrument in any style. Do a soft song one minute and a nosiy, Devo-ish wail the next (‘Best Friends’). In their inclusiveness, energy and bravery, Spearmint are the truly great pop band that B&S may someday turn into.
Spearmint 1 – B&S 0
love and kisses,