Joe on The Boy With The Arab Strap

I was a teenager in the mid-90s and my route into guitar music was the Britpop era. For some people it’s not that cool to say it now but I was totally sold on the swagger of Oasis, Blur, the Verve and most of the other Britpop bands of that time. Belle and Sebastian came on to my radar shortly after and were the antithesis of all of that: a bit twee, quiet and folky, subtly subversive, with sharp and intelligent lyrics, alongside Stuart Murdoch’s slightly anglicised vocals. They were also from Glasgow which was a big draw for me.

I’d bought a copy of The boy with the arab strap in my local record shop (remember them?). I fell in love with the album almost immediately. I think Belle and Sebastian purists tend to prefer Tigermilk or If you’re feeling sinister but TBWTAS was where it started for me. Highlights include the second track, Sleep the clock around, the only time I can think of where bagpipes have enhanced a song instead of overpowering it completely. I could also relate very well to The summer wasting, a real hymn to school and university holiday slacking, with the sublime line “Say cheerio to books now. The only things I’ll read are faces”. A space boy dream is a surreal spoken word track where Stuart David ends up in Mars on a spaceship in a dream. It is another favourite of mine.

I listened to the album again recently in the car and thoroughly enjoyed it. As I listened to track 6, Seymour Stein, (about the famous music industry entrepreneur) I thought about our very different plans for Last Night from Glasgow. Stuart Murdoch sang “Has he ever seen Dundee? Won’t he hire a limousine?”.

Well we’ve all definitely seen Glasgow and we certainly won’t be hiring any luxury cars.