Belle and Sebastian
Tigermilk


3.5
great

Review

by J. Ponton EMERITUS
September 13th, 2010 | 29 replies | 9,302 views


Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Testing the waters

While “Expectations” may be one of Belle and Sebastian’s best songs ever, it’s surrounded by a lot of shit. Varied twee pop shit, that is. If there is one word to describe the whole of 90s-staple Belle and Sebastian’s honey-sweet 1996 debut album, Tigermilk, than that’s basically it: varied – a lot of these songs seem thrown together in an attempt to fine-tune a sound that would later become the band’s own.

Tigermilk is a great album, though - don’t get me wrong. But just make sure you go into it knowing that it’s (1) not Belle and Sebastian’s superb follow-up, If You’re Feeling Sinister; and that (2) even if you run into some stale what-the-hell tracks like 80s-electronic-renaissance “Electronic Renaissance”, there’s still stuff like the driving chorus hook of the hand-clap-able “You’re Just A Baby” and the touching, melodramatic recap of early days in the string and brass-assisted “My Wandering Days Are Over” to pull the band back into your good graces.

You’ll find something odd about listening to Tigermilk, especially when considering the fact that it’s made by an extremely consistent band like Belle and Sebastian: it’s a kind of training-wheels album for the band, in which they try out and tinker with their legendary twee pop aesthetic, seeing what works and seeing what doesn’t. Stuart Murdoch instills a delicate atmosphere with his 90s-era innocent voice throughout, and instrumentally, the band as a whole sounds tense, creative, and brimming with excitement. The product manifests itself into Belle and Sebastian’s most experimental album to come before the turn of the millennium.

Essentially this is what holds Tigermilk back from being truly excellent, though. What you get here is a collection of indie pop tunes that individually sound as if having been penned and recorded at different points in Belle and Sebastian’s career. The album starts and ends very strongly – “Expectations” and “She’s Losing It” at the start of the album being heavy on the acoustics and Murdoch’s sunny-beach melodies, with the loner’s anthem “I Don’t Love Anyone” and a delicate letter to a girl on “Mary Jo” closing off things nicely. However, the middle of Tigermilk marks an odd, disjointed transitioning point:

Belle and Sebastian’s experimentation here does not result in what you could call a bad track, per se, but it does keep Tigermilk from garnering that "complete package" feeling that has come with almost all of Belle and Sebastian’s albums since its 1996 release. “I Could Be Dreaming” is a song meant to be played out in three minutes, but instead stretches to an awkward, overextended six, and “We Rule The School” is the type of piano-based track that belongs at the end of a Belle and Sebastian album, instead of being where it is here, acting merely as a segueing piece into the aforementioned “My Wondering Days Are Over”.

You see, the blueprint for something as powerful as If You’re Feeling Sinister is unmistakably here on Tigermilk. The melodies of “Expectations” are classic Belle and Sebastian, and the ending of “I Don’t Love Anyone” is among the band’s best moments ever, instrumentally and vocally. But the thing is that the album is in fact a blueprint for what was to come, no more. That’s not to say that Tigermilk is bad – compared to most of 90s indie pop, it’s definitely a staple. It just comes down to Tigermilk being only a great album in an excellent discography, though: it’s going to look bad when ranked with rest, maybe, but it's still pretty damn good by itself.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
klap
Staff Reviewer
September 13th 2010



10001 Comments


random, but nice!

Ponton
Emeritus
September 13th 2010



5775 Comments


getting ready for this year's album from these guys, and thought this really needed a review

Digging: Mimicking Birds - Mimicking Birds

Kiran
Emeritus
September 13th 2010



5992 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

a lot of these songs seem thrown together in an attempt to fine tune a sound that would later become the band’s own.

belle and seb weren't really a band when this was released and a lot of the songs came from demos murdoch and david made initially, which might go some way in explaining that! i like to think of 'if you're feeling sinister' as the bands first real album (it was released just a couple months after this, with a full line up and after they signed to a label) but i still love this.

can't wait for the new album too, so stoked

Intothepit
September 13th 2010



1776 Comments


Not so fond of tigermilk, but give me some badger milk any day.

Ponton
Emeritus
September 13th 2010



5775 Comments


That's what I read too Kiran, and the one this year is definitely one of my most looked forward to. If it's anything like The Life Pursuit, then I'll be happy.

You doing the review?

EVedder27
September 13th 2010



6088 Comments


Need to hear this

Ponton
Emeritus
September 13th 2010



5775 Comments


Try this from it Mike, awesome song

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H56B0Eslfs

Gyromania
September 13th 2010



14652 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Excellent review, agreements all around.
I'm so excited for their new release.

One small typo: and the soaring climatic..

EVedder27
September 13th 2010



6088 Comments


sweet, that song is fantastic

Ponton
Emeritus
September 13th 2010



5775 Comments


Thanks matt, much appreciated

Kiran
Emeritus
September 13th 2010



5992 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

That's what I read too Kiran, and the one this year is definitely one of my most looked forward to. If it's anything like The Life Pursuit, then I'll be happy.

You doing the review?

hopefully if lewis gives me his dibs :p

have you heard any of the new songs? they played one in one of their interview videos and released the title track on the website, carey mulligan featured on vocals, swoooon


Ponton
Emeritus
September 13th 2010



5775 Comments


No, I have not heard those yet, but I'll get to the title track soon for sure.

AggravatedYeti
September 13th 2010



7684 Comments


Im so happy you reviewed this.

its a flawed album, but it is still exciting to hear this band in their formative stages.

also you would drink badger milk pit.

RForster
September 13th 2010



68 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Good review though i do disagree with the rating although i don't quite love it as much as the follow up. i Still adore this album and honestly i would consider it a classic even with its flaws and there are a few. Plus The State I Am In is one of the best songs i have ever heard somes up why i love them so much really.

Nagrarok
September 14th 2010



7956 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Listened to Expectations as well, great song. Band seems interesting.

DBlitz
September 14th 2010



1685 Comments


haven't listened to this more than once, need to though

sinister and dcw are good though especially sinsiter

Gyromania
September 14th 2010



14652 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I think I might write a review right now for The Life Pursuit, which I think is their best.

Kiran
Emeritus
September 14th 2010



5992 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

you should, the life pursuit is my 2nd favourite, amazing album

AggravatedYeti
September 14th 2010



7684 Comments


new one so soon (!!!!!)

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
September 14th 2010



14884 Comments


i sort of wish the life pursuit could have a different cover so theyd all have that one "all in one color" thingy



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