Belle and Sebastian is one of those bands in the same way that a swishy young man is that way: unlikely to be appreciated by meat-fisted hooligans. Formed in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1996 by lead singer Stuart Murdoch and bass player Stuart David, the Stuarts rounded up a gaggle of the finest musicians they could find and formed the fairly ad hoc Belle and Sebastian (after a French children's TV show) in one of those near-mystical afterthoughts that often produces greatness. Into the studio they went, and out came Tigermilk, among the most coveted indie-pop records of the 1990s (only 1,000 copies were pressed on vinyl). With the voice of a lapsed choirboy, Murdoch's songs unlocked that secret room in the shoegazer's soul from which Morrissey and the Smiths had been evicted a decade earlier:
I was surprised, I was happy for a day in 1975
I was puzzled by a dream, stayed with me all day in 1995
My brother had confessed that he was gay
It took the heat off me for a while
He stood up with a sailor friend
Made it known upon my sister's wedding day
And with those words from the opening track, "The State I Am In," U.K. mope pop was reborn for a new generation with a decidedly breezier lilt.
With rarity comes mystery and with mystery comes obsession. A cult following formed and slowly the legend of the glum Glasgow band with the golden sound got around. If You're Feeling Sinister followed that same year along with a grouping of EPs. Then The Boy With the Arab Strap came along in 1998 with more acclaim. By the time these camera-shy Scots finally made it really big with the release of Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant in 2000, many fans felt like the glory had faded. But Dear Catastrophe Waitress in 2003 restored some of the faithful to the fold despite its widely acknowledged unevenness.
No matter. They're among the seminal pop bands of our time, their catalog is gorgeous and they just don't come to Denver much. Don't miss.
-- Noel Black
Belle and Sebastian
Fillmore Auditorium 1510 Clarkson, Denver
Friday, May 7 at 8 p.m.
$22.50; 520-SHOW or www.ticketmaster.com