25 May 2009

Belle & Sebastian

If You're Feeling Sinister
Jeepster, 1996

Occasionally, this column chooses itself. Whenever I am very sad, or very happy – or, as has been the case for the last two weeks, both – I end up listening to a song from Belle & Sebastian's second album If You're Feeling Sinister called 'Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying' over and over for days. The song isn't actually as tumultuous as the title would suggest – there's nothing in it to suggest why the protagonist needs to get away, or what from. It's just a story, a gentle and introspective story about reading books and thinking about lovers, with a rhythm that suggests that it is already set on the road – a sort of soft back-and-forth lilt like a train carriage in motion.

When it is playing, the song seems to be endless. It doesn't have any clear beginning or end, and certainly no logical progression between the verses. When I visited the band's website today to double-check the lyric sheet, I was surprised to see that it fit onto a single page. One verse describes getting wrapped up in the pages of a clichéd book with the same kind of fancy and suspension of belief that allows me to play the song itself so many times: "Oh, I'll settle down with some old story/ About a boy who's just like me/ Thought there was love in everything and everyone/ You're so naïve!... Still it was worth it as I turned the pages solemnly, and then!/ With a winning smile, the boy with naivety succeeds!"

I have admitted before to my guilty love for twee pop songs, and this is surely the twee-est of them all – like watching a Wes Anderson film or reading a Salinger book at home in bed with a cup of tea and a cosy blanket. But also, perhaps, it is time I stopped using the word "guilty". I have been thinking lately about sentimentality and the dramatisation of everyday affairs and the search for meaning in the smallest of things – in my favourite writers and critics as much as in pop music – and, I think, I am finally happy to say that I will most always choose that endeavour over the alternatives. Then again, I could just be being a bit emo this week.

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