Many bands, namely Oasis, attempt to make the magic that legendary band the Beatles created back in the 60s. "What's The Story (Morning Glory)" makes the largest attempt to make modernized versions of the Beatles songs. Don't Look Back in Anger sounds like Imagine immediately. However, one band out of the UK sounds more like the Beatles than any of the other imitators, and they don't even try to be the Beatles. Belle and Sebastian, with the release of Dear Catastrophe Waitress, create a great album with noticeable Beatles influence without completely ripping off specific Beatles songs.
Belle and Sebastian were really in a tight spot with the upcoming release of Dear Catastrophe Waitress. Two of the founding members left for other projects and it seemed that Belle and Sebastian would not be able to live up to the great releases that came before this album. However, the band came up with an album a bit more radio friendly, but still great music and fun to listen to. Rushes of sound including guitars, keyboards, and string and brass sections make lush background for the easy going vocals of either Stuart Murdoch or Sarah Martin. Most songs revolve around a strumming acoustic guitar going over the chord pattern while the other various instruments build countermelodies off of the chords.
The first song however, revolves on a more percussive feel set down by the bass and drums. The song takes a departure away from the typical Belle and Sebastian sound. Starting with just drums, keyboard, and a trombone setting the percussive feel the song revolves around, the song immediately sounds catchy and like a single. Step into My Office, Baby was the first single off any album by Belle and Sebastian. Once the whole band enters, the song shows the Beatles influences immediately. When the vocal harmony comes along singing "Say my place at 9," sounds the most Beatles-esque that the album has to offer. At one point nearly halfway throughout the song, everything drops out for Stuart singing and vocals harmonies behind him. Slowly, more instruments build on top until reaching the verse riff again. After another verse and chorus, the song slows down and leaves Stuart and a piano to sing until bringing the drums and bass back in and speeding back up to the original tempo. Then yet another verse and chorus occurs to close out the song.
The next standout, Piazza, New York Catcher features Stuart and an acoustic guitar. Some of the best lyrics on the album are showcased here. Witty baseball references occur all over the place. "The statue's crying too and will he may," is the most hidden of the references, obviously slyly throwing in Willie Mays into the mix. The title is misleading, as the song is really just a song about a girl. The first lines "Elope with me Miss Private and we'll sail around the world/I will be your Ferdinand and you my wayward girl," lead right into the story Stuart weaves throughout the song. Each verse follows the same chord pattern that is in Gb, so barre chords are a plenty.
The next track, Asleep on a Sunbeam gives a break from Stuart's vocals and brings in Sarah Martin for the first half of the song. Asleep on a Sunbeam follows a strummed guitar pattern, accompanied with piano and a light drum beat. A brass section enters here and there to accent certain sections. After the chorus, Stuart takes a verse for himself, shorter than Sarah's. The guitar drops out from strumming and the piano is left to keep the chord pattern going. Asleep on a Sunbeam goes by quickly, maintaining the poppy feel of the album thus far.
The breathtaking ballad, If You Find Yourself Caught in Love, opens with a beautiful piano melody. Well, one would think this song is a ballad for the first minute, until a bass slide brings the song into a more energetic verse. Stuart sings over a typical rock instrumentation of guitar, bass, and drums. Light piano can be heard accenting with the guitar. The song pulses along, well orchestrated with a string section about halfway throughout. Surprisingly jazzy chords create tension during transitions and a few triplet rhythmic surprises occur in the chorus.
The next song, the bluesy Roy Walker, showcases great vocal harmonies throughout the song. After the bluesy intro and a short verse, everything drops out except for a sparse xylophone, Stuart, and finger snaps to keep the rhythm. The song continues to pass off between these two riffs until a bridge/outro including a very well crafted guitar solo. The finger snap section of the song is so incredibly catchy, and this song will get inside your head and will not leave for some time.
Dear Catastrophe Waitress is definitely the catchiest of Belle and Sebastian's albums, and raised the bar higher for their further releases. The departure of Isobel and Stuart does not go unnoticed, but also does not leave any gaping holes in the band's sound or progression. Every song has their good points, but the standouts leave the others forgettable. However, this album is most definitely an album that one can listen to straight through without getting tired or bored.
Step Into My Office, Baby
Piazza, New York Catcher
Asleep on a Sunbeam
If You Find Yourself Caught in Love