cover image Belle & Sebastian: Just a Modern Rock Story

Belle & Sebastian: Just a Modern Rock Story

Paul Whitelaw, . . St. Martin's/Griffin, $15.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-312-34137-4

Scottish music journalist Whitelaw delivers the first account of idiosyncratic, media-shy Glaswegian indie-rock darlings Belle & Sebastian. A product of the musical vision of University of Glasgow student Stuart Murdoch, Belle & Sebastian recorded its first record, Tigermilk (a collection of 10 catchy, lyrically engaging songs), in 1996 as part of a university course, and eventually signed to the independent label Jeepster. After the release of an acclaimed second record, If You're Feeling Sinister , life in the band became increasingly difficult. At the time of its signing, Belle & Sebastian, which has had numerous members including horn and string players, was essentially a studio entity enacting Murdoch's musical vision, and the band struggled with live performances. Internally, the band was a mess of self-doubt and clashing personalities, exacerbated by Murdoch's doomed romance with cellist and charter member Isobel Campbell, who left in 2002. While hitting the major beats of the band members' lives and careers, Whitelaw is annoyingly reverential to his subjects. Written with band cooperation, the book shambles along (to use a phrase often associated with the group's rare live shows) with frustratingly little insight, even if it does offer illumination, if for no other reason than that the band has always been studiously committed to staying out of the press. (Aug.)