100 for 2000 – #35. Belle And Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2003 – #5. Belle And Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress
(Spunk)

I did not discover Belle And Sebastian until some time later. So although I was aware of Dear Catastrophe Waitress (and there were some big fans in the Reservations), this was the last album of theirs that I ever picked up, when I eventually went back. This is one of their very best albums, and Belle and Sebastian are one of my top 5 bands, easily.

I’m always interested in the diaspora of records that leads to someone being a fan. But here is how I met, and fell in love with Belle And Sebastian.

As if I didn’t have enough going on in my life, I was also writing music and DVD reviews for a friend’s film magazine – Filmink (they call themselves Australia’s Best Film Magazine and I have to agree). One of the things I was given to review was Belle And Sebastian’s Fans Only DVD.

Of course I had heard of B&S. They seemed unnecessarily twee and whimsical, girly and – this is an odd one – very Melbourne. There’s this invisible unsaid musical divide about Sydney and Melbourne. There was a twee scene that existed in Melbourne that could never happen in Sydney. You would be killed. So, I’m pretty sure I resisted B&S for the same reason I avoided all those crap twee Melbourne bands in colourful stripey bonds t-shirts. I had no time to pretend I was still a kid.

If you’re not a fan of B&S, you might have a similar view. But, I’m on the other side now – a die hard fan. Almost all of my preconceived notions were wrong. They did, however, inspire many terrible bands (mainly from Melbourne).

So, back to this DVD. I put it on and set about writing a review. I barely knew anything about this band. I skipped over some of the more boring bits, and odd film clips for songs I didn’t know. There were some nice, fun moments on the DVD (a collection of film clips and home footage – it’s more scrapbook than story).

Then came the moment.

Right at the end of the DVD, there is footage from Glastonbury. Stuart Murdoch introduces the song, and quietly launched into The State I Am In. It’s beautifully shot, and sounds great. And the song – like many people before me – blew my mind.

I mentioned this to Paul, who surprised me actually when he told me he was a big fan. An ordering t-shirts from a faraway website type of fan. He made me a mix CD – a best of essentially. It hit all the big songs, and I liked a lot of it. Around this time, they toured Australia for the first time. Someone had a spare ticket and I snapped it up.

That first gig, I was still a novice. Plenty of songs I didn’t know, plenty from Dear Catastrophe Waitress, an album I still didn’t own. I did pick up the b-sides and EP collection, Push Barman To Open Old Wounds. It had the State I Am In on it, so I was happy with that.

As I fell more and more in love with the songs I had, I started again at the beginning. Tigermilk, Sinister and so on. I realised that there was a guy behind this band, Stuart Murdoch, who wrote the best songs. The more twee stuff (especially the terrible songs written and sung by Isobel Campbell) came from an era of the band when they tried to be democratic. That was over and Murdoch was largely in control, and writing almost all the songs again.

By the time I was up to Dear Catastrophe Waitress, a new album was out (more about that later). On the tour for The Life Pursuit, I was a hardcore fan, I had every record and knew every song. I was up the front and sang along to every one.

This album effectively marks the beginning of B&S version 2. Production values went up, with Trevor Horn as producer. Playing live became a priority, and the band sounded full and rich.

It has my second favourite Belle And Sebastian song (after The State I Am In) – If You Find Yourself Caught In Love. It’s a major work – and I loved that when Murdoch was on NPR’s Fresh Air, interviewer Terry Gross asked him about this song in particular. It is something very special. Piazza New York Catcher was recently used in the movie Juno. There is an awesome Thin Lizzy inspired I’m A Cuckoo.

Where did you learn to love music? It’s an odd thought I have sometimes. No one teaches you. It’s something you pick up along the way. And it can happen so randomly, and so quickly.

If you like what this band does, then chances are you’re already charmed by this album.  And although they are still relatively new to me, I find it hard to imagine a time when I didn’t love this band.

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