Belle & Sabastian | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Belle & Sabastian

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BELLE & SEBASTIAN

With Belle & Sebastian's recently released third album, The Boy With the Arab Strap (Matador), the cultish obsession with this eight-piece Glaswegian group has reached a fever pitch--they're the kind of band fans and critics alike want to keep all to themselves. Their indelible whispered melodies, house-of-cards arrangements, clever and highly referential lyrics, and the bored lispy croon of lead singer Stuart Murdoch contribute to a calculated enigma destined to attract the same sort of maniacal but limited following as the Smiths--a shame, really, because Belle & Sebastian deserve to be more broadly loved. Their lyrics admittedly get a little claustrophobic in tunes like "Seymour Stein"--about being courted by the Sire Records honcho ("You liked [keyboardist] Chris [Geddes]'s jacket / He reminded you of Johnny [Marr] / Before he went Electronic")--although "Chickfactor," about how an interview with the superhip New York fanzine brought on homesickness, is actually fairly touching. But the regal melodies and instrumental reach are what separate them from the indie-rock rabble. Their delicate, elaborate folk rock has some apparent antecedents--Nick Drake, the soft side of the Velvet Underground, Motown pomp, Petula Clark--but the quirky hooks and charmingly lazy execution blur the lines beautifully. This is Belle & Sebastian's Chicago debut; Momus opens. Monday, 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Ronnie Black.

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