Monday, April 16th, 2018

Belle and Sebastian – Poor Boy

This is just a modern dance track…


Alfred Soto: Belle and Sebastian have spent more time getting frisky with disco bass lines and eyeliner than as a putative folk bedsit act. This was fresh in 2003 when the band wasn’t looking over its shoulder at Kacey Musgraves. Committed to limning the life of a lout who doesn’t live up to his own imaginings, Stuart Murdoch still prowls through song after song using third person and fooling no one, co-singer Sarah Martin least of all.

Alex Clifton: Perfectly twee disco, which is disappointing because “Poor Boy” lacks the heart of previous Belle and Sebastian releases. I’ve been a disciple of Stuart Murdoch since someone handed me a burnt copy of If You’re Feeling Sinister at 18, and it’s one of my favourite albums of all time. Something about Murdoch’s earnest, detailed lyrics combined with their ear for quiet melody made for an unusual and effective combination. But ever since they took off in a wildly poppier direction, beginning with the quite good The Life Pursuit and diminishing with each subsequent album, they’ve lost some of the feeling that made Belle and Sebastian special. Continuing your career doesn’t mean that you’ve got to go generic, but alas that’s what Belle and Sebastian have done. 

Juana Giaimo: Although moving to a quiet synthpop was a good idea for Belle and Sebastian so as not to be repetitive, I always have the feeling they are quite uncomfortable with this new sound. In “Poor Boy,” the steady beat goes well with the fast pace of the verses, but when the voices start to be more melodious in the pre-chorus, they get near to psychedelia without fully embracing it. In the same way, the opening chorus has some potential that isn’t developed in the following ones.    

Katherine St Asaph: Must everybody turn into lite-disco?

Edward Okulicz: More muscular production and flirtations with dance were the hallmarks of Belle and Sebastian’s transformation from insufferably twee runts to makers of quality pop around the time of Dear Catastrophe Waitress. In the years since, they’ve forgotten half of that and are now evidently producing twee, runty “disco.” Tuneful, but also rather punchable.

Tim de Reuse: A decent groove, a catchy chorus, but streamlined to the point of being completely unremarkable. There’s some interesting story in the lyrics, I think: the shell of a tune about a boy treating his crush like porcelain, but the line “I’d trot around/In velvet socks so I could not be felt” is the only remotely clever manifestation of the topic; all else is buried in unsurprising harmonies, an over-repeated chorus, and a mix that sees all rough edges obsessively sanded away.

Ryo Miyauchi: As often as aging bands eventually write this sort of song, where one actually has personally observed the exponential effects of time, I didn’t quite expect the always-preppy Belle and Sebastian to turn their own take in. They’ve been letting it loose this decade, turning to bright dance music for expression as they continue to do here. But their storytelling remains deceivingly grim, and the resigned sort of restraint to sing this slow crumble of a relationship plays key here. There’s some underlying knowledge by the two singers that pop melodramatics at their age are passé, no matter how inclined they may feel to implode.

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