Belle and Sebastian
Tigermilk


4.5
superb

Review

by Ali CONTRIBUTOR (130 Reviews)
July 18th, 2012 | 27 replies | 3,351 views


Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "It's got to be fate that's doing it..."

Plenty of records can cite a classic back story, but only the true greats can back theirs up with grade-A content. Tigermilk's mere existence is a blessing, and the fact it's now in wider circulation is something of a minor miracle. The key to its unlikely tale lay in outrageously talented Glaswegian Stuart Murdoch, a former boxer who, having being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, chose to pursue an alternative path in songwriting. After a short stint performing on the city's open mic circuit, he decided to hook up with bassist Stuart David, eventually assembling a full band under the Belle & Sebastian moniker. Before long, the group's demos fell into the hands of Alan Rankine, the head of a Music Business course at the local Stow College. Impressed by what he heard, Rankine granted them access to a studio, with a view to releasing a single on the college's label, Electric Honey Records. Once there, though, the pool of material was deemed strong enough for a full LP, with Tigermilk - initially limited to 1000 vinyl copies - the ultimate result.

16 years later, the surprise with which the band greeted their golden opportunity is still clearly audible. Simply put, this album sounds like the hurriedly assembled crop of ideas it is: there's no sequencing, no cohesion, and no indication that these factors were even considered while they excitedly cobbled together the fruits of their endeavours. Its plight is epitomised by 'Electronic Renaissance,' a regressive New Order-ish disco oddball which seems almost comically out of place amongst a wealth of material that's otherwise guitar-centric. That song, and indeed the entire record's saving grace is clear; its conception lay exclusively in the hands of Murdoch, a creative genius whose Midas touch dominates proceedings like a sprinkling of real life magic dust. Tender, poignant and withdrawn, each of his songs acts as a mini masterpiece in itself, showcasing not only his sensational melodicism but also the hugely diverse musical palette that Belle And Sebastian allowed him.

Written during a period of isolation when coming to terms with his illness, most of Murdoch's songs adopt a folky aesthetic and focus on genuine characters he observed whilst living above a church hall. Also a master of word play, his dexterous tongue is a source of inspiration throughout, providing staggering insight into themes including bullying, pressure and love - and that's only in the first two songs. At any given time, his lyrics can be comedic, sobering, uplifting, or just about any other emotion one can summon, all while coming from a voice as flat and fragile as you'd expect from a man on the edge. Remarkably, his ear for a tune was just as strong, lending from key influences such as The Beatles, The Smiths and Felt but still managing to sound utterly distinctive. Whether it's the distant elegance of 'The State I Am In,' the pure pop perfection of 'You're Not A Baby' or the introspective beauty of 'My Wandering Days Are Over,' each of his majestic hooks is capable of laying siege to a listener's heart, refusing to budge until it's completely at their mercy.

With such a precious arsenal of gifts at his disposal, Murdoch's main challenge must have been to find an effective means through which to express them. It's no exaggeration to say that Tigermilk struck the perfect formula - even if the songwriter's presence is so domineering that it's often easy to forget that it represents a collaborative effort. Uneven contributions or not, this is a record which more than lives up to the legend of its creation, providing a magnificent benchmark from which Murdoch and Belle & Sebastian could develop even further.



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user ratings (193)
Chart.
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
J. Ponton EMERITUS (3.5)
Testing the waters...


Comments:Add a Comment 
AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
July 18th 2012



7314 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

100!

Also posted at http://www.muzikdizcovery.com/

Thought I'd mark it with a review of one of my favourite bands.

CaptainDooRight
July 18th 2012



28340 Comments


that album art



Digging: IQ - The Road of Bones

omnipanzer
July 18th 2012



21418 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

OOoooooooooo
I am so happy to see this reviewed.
/happy clap

Digging: Grant Lee Buffalo - Fuzzy

omnipanzer
July 18th 2012



21418 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

No, it's wrong that you are allowed to have a keyboard.

YoYoMancuso
July 18th 2012



10871 Comments


happy 100th review bro and congrats on the contributor position, this is a great review as usual

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
July 18th 2012



49791 Comments


You got promoted just in time for the big 100, right on man
I never got into this band

Digging: Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) - You Will Eventually Be Forgotten

YankeeDudel
July 18th 2012



9305 Comments


I listened to If You're Feeling Sinister yesterday and it had a couple cool moments but overall was just a little too poppy for my tastes.

Digging: DJ Spooky - Songs Of A Dead Dreamer

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
July 18th 2012



49791 Comments


^ my thoughts exactly


Gyromania
July 18th 2012



15200 Comments


Classy review. Happy 100!

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
July 18th 2012



23798 Comments


i thought id dislike this band but i checked out some album...forget which, and it was really good. this review is sublime too, might try to hear this one soon.

happy 100 and congrats on a well-deserved promotion

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
July 18th 2012



7314 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks for the kind words people.

@ Trebor & YankeeDudel: Their earlier stuff can take a bit of effort to get into, and I'd say that IYFS is their least immediate record. Dear Catastrophe Waitress and The Life Pursuit are well worth a listen too, if you want to sample the band that they've become. I find it hard to imagine any indie pop fans not enjoying at least one of their records.

@ Matt: No rating?! Please tell me you have this...

@ Aids: From what I know of your taste they should be right up you're street. All of their 90s output is sublime, and the pair I mentioned above are great too.


Omaha
Staff Reviewer
July 18th 2012



10003 Comments


Awesome review, Ali. I'm giving the album a listen now, just to sate my curiosity.


"the hugely diverse musical pallet that Belle And Sebastian allowed him."

Palette?

"It's no exhagguration to say that Tigermilk struck the perfect formula"

Exhagguration... Is this a cultural thing? Interesting. ^_^

Digging: Deniro Farrar - Rebirth

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
July 18th 2012



7314 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Well spotted, fixed. Not sure what you're getting at with the second one, though...

Gyromania
July 18th 2012



15200 Comments


Yeah, it's exaggeration, never seen the other spelling before.

Ali: I have this - I'm a HUGE Belle and Sebastian fan. I actually reviewed three of their albums on Sputnik. Thinking about maybe doing the whole discography at some point. Also, I had my ratings wiped a little while ago.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
July 18th 2012



10003 Comments


Why the ratings wipe, Mr. French?

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
July 18th 2012



7314 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Hmmm, didn't come up on my spell check... odd. Anyway it's fixed now.

I'm hoping to turn this into a discog at some point, although obviously there'll be a lot of things thrown in between.

Gyromania
July 18th 2012



15200 Comments


I didn't feel the same way about a lot of my old ratings so I decided to delete and rate them again as opposed to changing them all individually.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
July 18th 2012



7314 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah I really need to go through my own ratings, some of them are way off the mark with how I feel now - even the B&S ones :-O

ZedO
July 18th 2012



1096 Comments


special review from AliW1993, have to pos

cant stop lol at that cover and album's title..

Gyromania
July 18th 2012



15200 Comments


Ali: do you enjoy Dear Catastrophe Waitress any more today than you did before? I noticed you have it as a 3.5. I might actually consider it to be their best (although that's a ridiculously hard call to make).



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