Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Lance LaSalle, May 21, 2020.
This could be an interesting discussion...
Fold Your Hands, Child...
Gradually, imperceptibly, Belle and Sebastian were slowly becoming a band I thought of as being one of my friend’s favourite bands rather than my one of my own favourite bands.
I had missed my chance to see them play in Leeds due to being away, then I went abroad for a year 1999-2000. In doing this, I missed the Bowlie Weekender too, which my best friend went to and wrote to me about. When “Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Pheasant” (as he always referred to it) came out he thoughtfully sent me a tape of it. I realise now I have never owned a legitimate copy of the album (I used to listen to his vinyl copy when I later became his housemate). This may help excuse my confusion between “Before the Sunrise” and “Waiting for the Moon to Rise”, as it’s harder to check which song you’re listening to on cassette. Also harder to skip tracks! I mention this home recorded cassette now partly because I will need to mention it again when we get to Legal Man.
Another housemate of mine had the sheet music book of this album so I enjoyed tinkling some of them ineptly on the ivories (or listening to my housemate do it properly).
As my track by track reviews bear witness, I do like the album a lot but it is marred by more tracks I don’t like than the previous albums and there are two particularly awful sequencing decisions. Inspired by this thread I have come up with my ideal tracklisting:
I Fought In A War
The Wrong Girl
Don’t Leave the Light On, Baby
Waiting for the Moon to Rise
There’s Too Much Love
Single #1: Legal Man/Judy Is A Dick Slap/Nice Day For A Sulk
Single #2: The Model/Before the Sunrise/The Chalet Lines
This might seem too short but I can’t think of anything to add to it without diluting the quality too much. And it’s honestly such a relief not to have Chalet Lines on there even though I know some see it as a highlight. Sorry.
A slightly harsh 4 out of 5. It is so near to greatness, but I can’t deny its faults. I still like it more than any of their subsequent albums.
this was their first album I bought (having taped Tigermilk, I'm not sure if I already had If You're Feeling Sinister, sure I didn't yet have TBWTAS).
I didn't read any review of this album in that time, and I loved some tracks, liked most of the rest. I never had issues with the order of the songs.
I had much more problems with TBWTAS, maybe around that time I had a bit of fatigue for B&S old style. It was a good thing they changed their sound, the old style was getting old and by changing it they made sure the first two albums stayed beautiful (no pun intended) because they closed that phase of their music, if that makes any sense...
I agree with STevie Jackson and many of you all here that the album's sequence is pretty botched: it starts out strong, but quickly gets bogged down in very slow, quiet type songs....three in a row is just mad and makes the album seem like it takes two hours, even if most of the songs are not bad. I enjoy "Before the Sunrise" as a piece of kitschy pastiche, but ultimately I agree that it probably shold have been left off the album as a B-side or better yet been included in Swansong for You, where it would have fit better.
But "Waiting for the Moon to Rise" is actually very, very nice -- one of my favorites on the album -- and I also enjoy "The Wrong Girl", which almost sounds like one of those grand, sweeping Jimmy Webb/Glen Campbell records (though not quite at the quality of those.)
"Women's Realm" strikes me as uncharacteristically mediocre and I think it's clear that the album could have benefited from some new ideas: OK, the orchestra is good icing, but there's a spark missing here that was evident on the first three albums and most of the EP's as well. I think their decision to bring in a new producer was a good one (though there was actually another album before they got around to doing that; that was a bad decision that probably sealed their fate commercially, after they blew their peak. Not that commercial success matters.)
I haven't experimented with the track list, but I may do so as I think, even without cutting songs, it could be improved as a listening experience and there' s a decent 4-4.5 album here without cutting or adding anything.
As it is, I'll give the album we got a 3.5/5
I got Isobel, Stevie and Chris to sign my copy when I was at a Gentle Waves gig in November 2000.
I played the LP yesterday. No option to hit a skip button. To be honest, despite my savaging of it in this thread, Beyond the Sunrise is actually less of a stark interruption in pace than The Chalet Lines. I was surprised. But overall, the sequencing is one of the key things that drags the album down, and those two songs have to go.
I did up an alternate version, which I played while out driving this morning (my Spotify stats for this year are going to be totally skewed by listening to so much Belle and Sebastian for this thread). Everyone is going to have their own version of this, and some selections might be contentious, but this is all down to personal opinion.
My philosophy was to include what I felt were the best (or, at least better) songs of the era and ditch the rest. Early drafts of this "Director's Cut" actually included Judy Is a Dick Slap (which I love), but I abandoned that, as I felt it was better to just have an album of songs without an instrumental interlude.
Would they include Winter Wooskie on the album, considering Stuart David's departure? Was Marx and Engels simply considered "not good enough" to be on it, or did they feel it just didn't fit? At the end of the day, they're the same vintage and I prefer both of those to the songs I've cut. I also think that, as this point, it might have been no harm to abandon the old "singles are separate from albums" philosophy. Legal Man isn't a particular favourite of mine, but it was a single - and a bit of a hit - and its inclusion would definitely give the pace of the album a significant jolt. I included it at the last minute, shoving Nice Day for a Sulk off its (different) position on side two.
Side One 20:02
I Fought In A War
Don't Leave the Light On, Baby
The Wrong Girl
Side Two 20:21
Marx and Engels
Waiting for the Moon to Rise
There's Too Much Love
One final note on the album. I went to see Icelandic band, múm: two band members at the time, twin sisters Gyða and Kristín Anna Valtysdóttir, are the cover stars. I had brought their then current album to get signed, and I also had a poster of Fold Your Hands that I thought they could scribble on as well. One of them did, but the other refused outright, to the point of annoyance (hers, not mine), so I very quickly rolled the poster up and put it away. I think her view was that it wasn't their album, so she felt signing the poster was stupid. I wasn't bothered, but didn't really see what the fuss was about: I saw it as no different than, say, getting Jerry Hall to sign a copy of Siren (Roxy Music in '75, as opposed to Roxy Music in '72).
I'd give the album 3/5. It's just too inconsistent. Also, if I'm really going for the jugular, the title is terrible and the cover image is weak (there are better outtakes).
The great songs are really fantastic, but the weak ones just suck the life out of it. There needs to be a clear gap between what I gave the earlier records and what I award this one. So 3/5 is fair.
I like that tracklisting but Legal Man still strikes me as great standalone single (although its inclusion would hark back to Electronic Renaissance being on Tigermilk).
I’m trying to recall what my original impressions of the album were. I suspect I was just happy to have a new B&S album so generally overlooked the flaws (other than Beyond The Sunrise) at the time. Still can’t deny that the album has some great tracks and overall it’s better than the sum of its parts give the sequencing.
I don't think this album is nearly as bad as some have said over the years. The main problem is the lows are pretty low... If you take out Beyond The Sunrise and Chalet Lines I think this would be a super strong 4 or 4.5 album. I wouldn't even take out the Wrong Girl. The highs are still very high on the album so it doesn't drag it down as a whole honestly. But it is definitely their most uneven album, at least to date. I couldn't go any lower than 3.5.
The album: 4
My votes for individual songs is as follow:
5: 4 songs
4: 3 songs
3: 3 songs
1: 1 song
Heck, that's even more fives than the one I gave to Tigermilk!
What is wrong with this album then? Let's ponder over the 3 I gave for a moment. These are three songs that I can't quite decide if I like them or not. One is a solid artistic statement that doesn't fit on the album and is hard to stomach emotionally; one is a song that sounds beautiful and fits the album perfectly, but is marred by bad lyrics (would get 4+ otherwise); the other one is from a secondary songwriter that I like, but the particular song strikes me as repetitive.
Not being able to say if you like a song or not is a bad thing. This is the issue with FYHC;YWLAP (great acronym by the way): as an album, it's disorienting. It keeps throwing curveball at you (and even changeups, if you let me extrapolate the baseball analogy). They keep going back and forth between your typical B&S early song, some hybrid of their style mixed with soul-jazz stuff, and other songs that have nothing to do at all.
So my suggestion for the album would be to make something like Bowie's Low or Eno's Before and After Science; split the album in half.
I Fought in a War
The Wrong Girl
Waiting For the Moon to Rise
a Stuart David song (Winter Wooskie?)
Nice Day for a Sulk
Don't Leave the Light On Baby
There's Too Much Love
Or something like that.
Anyway, this is like my 4th or 5th favorite album of theirs. Not a bad album at all.
EDIT: Just rereading this and I realize I put three non-Stuart songs in a row on side A. Man, what a headache.
For me there are plenty of high quality songs on Fold Your Hands Child, especially the Stuart ones, and I only gave 3 songs less than a 4 or 5 rating (same as Arab Strap), so I agree that the sequencing needs changing to improve the album as a whole entity rather than just a set of songs in some crazy order.
Although my first instinct was to simply exclude the song I liked the least "Beyond The Sunrise", I felt it would be just a left field fantasy and too far removed from what was ever likely to happen in reality, because it's the only Isobel-written song on the album so it would be hard to include Stevie and Sarah songs but not one of hers. Also where would it go ? The Legal Man single could not have 4 tracks and still be counted as a single now in the UK. And would Isobel want a Stevie vocal on a Gentle Waves album ? So unfortunately it has to stay.
Plan B therefore is just to swap around the sequence of the existing tracks to avoid the mid-album slump, and I also wanted to do it with the least amount of changes so it still felt close to the 'real thing' (and also as more of a challenge).
I Fought In A War
Waiting For The Moon To Rise
The Wrong Girl
Don't Leave The Light On Baby
Beyond The Sunrise
There's Too Much Love
Nice Day For A Sulk
This solves various problems:
- the crunching halt after "The Model" that comes with "Beyond The Sunrise"
- the 3 slower/quiet songs in a row, tracks 3,4,5 now become 3,5,6
- "Beyond The Sunrise" is now followed by an upbeat song to take your mind off it immediately
- "The Chalet Lines" no longer comes straight after the upbeat "The Wrong Girl" as another crunching halt
- "The Chalet Lines" is a love-it-or-hate-it polarising song, so having it end the album is making a statement one way or the other
Overall, especially with my preferred sequence, I rate this album just as highly as Arab Strap but a step below the first 2 classics.
Weakest album to date ...so a 3/5
Arab strap, fold your hands, and storytelling have much of my favorite Belle and Sebastian moments, but all are more inconsistent than what came before (and what came after too, imo). Might try some of these alternate track listings someday
Our votes for Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant
Today's song is "Legal Man", written by Belle and Sebastian, with Stevie Jackson sort of directing things; and produced by Tony Doogan and Belle & Sebastian. Vocals are by Isobel Campbell, Sarah Martin, Stevie Jackson, and Stuart Murdoch.
"Legal Man" was at the head of a three song single released on May 22nd 2000, a month before Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant. Although it was released before, it seems to have been recorded afterwards, early in the year 2000 (while the album was mostly recorded in 1999.) It was a self-conscious attempt at writing a hit single and it achieved its goal.
The single went to #4 in Canada, #10 in Norway, #9 in Scotland, #15 in the UK (#4 on the UK Indie chart) and it charted Ireland and Sweden as well.
On the writing of the song Stevie said:
I get the credit for writing it but that's not the case. We're setting in the room above the church hall and I played an Eastern scale backwards, which is the Legal Man riff, and Isobel just went 'L-O-V-E, it's coming back, it's coming back'. I thought that was fantastic, even though it was an obvious Al Green/Orange Juice reference. So we need a tune for the verse and Stuart vaguely sang one, and then I said, "Right, what's the song about?" And the day before we'd been visited by Robert White, our lawyer, so Sarah, suggested we write a song about him. And I went "Legal Man?" The inspiration is a song by The Pointer Sisters called "Dont'Try to Take the Fifth", which is a love song in legalese....so I got out the Jeepster contract and just took out legal terrms. It took about fifteen minutes. And then Chris wrote the coda and bang that was it. (From the In the All Night Cafe biography by Paul Whitelaw.
One of their catchiest songs - an easy 5/5.
A song close to my heart. I’ve got one of their Legal Man art prints up in my office.
A staple of any indie disco in the early 2000s, very catchy and with all that energy. As I mentioned yesterday I can’t see it as anything other than a standalone single.
Legal Man 4/5
such a fun song. so refreshing after the previous album
Legal Man comes as a breath of fresh air after the songs on the last album; maybe that's what the album lacked, is this sense of pure fun that they pop up with every once in a while. It's silly and irreverent but so catchy and it carries such a blast of nonsensical froth that I can't help but give it an enthusiastic
I mentioned yesterday that my friend sent me the album on cassette while I was living abroad. On the other side was a compilation of retro rock n roll and soul nuggets- mostly rare, mostly 1960s. Legal Man was nestled among them, right as the penultimate track before James Clarke's Wild Elephants (I always associate the two tracks together). Legal Man certainly meshed well with all these hipster (to use a word featured heavily in Stuart Murdoch sleevenotes) rocking retro rediscoveries.
I love the song. I have no problem using it my fantasy album lineup as the album is quite diverse anyhow.
Again, I was almost expecting a massive backlash at this point, so I'm glad the comments have been positive so far. 4/5 from me.
I included it on my Director's Cut version of the album, which is as much of an endorsement as I can give it, but I clearly don't love it as much as others here.
For some reason, I could never quite take to its relentless, everything but the kitchen sink, frenetic energy, which of course is the selling point.
For me, it's mid-table, but mid-range Belle and Sebastian is still better than most. Take this as a "higher end of the scale" 3/5.
Legal Man was certainly something different for them when it came out, and it still is today. It's a super fun song, but I never quite fell in love with it. It just doesn't sound like "Belle and Sebastian". It took a long time for this to happen, but hearing it live finally helped make it click for me. They do seem to have a good time playing it! It's not a 5 song for me. But it does work well as a standalone single A-side. I think I have to give it a nice solid 4.
As an aside, has everyone heard they are doing a live album? Nothing official yet, but Stuart had mentioned they were working on putting it together a few times a couple months back on the twitter. I would hope that they include a good Legal Man on it.
I can see how, on one hand "Legal Man" seems like a great stand-alone single - full of energy, catchy hooks - but on the other hand I imagine people who had never heard anything by Belle & Sebastian before suddenly hearing this, liking it, buying their albums, and then wondering why nothing else sounds like "Legal Man". In other words it's possibly not a great shop window to their typical sound.
As a fan already though I can appreciate it for what it is - a one-off piece of fun that makes me smile - but it's not an absolute classic.
I really liked Legal man on release , one great b side too... it hasn’t aged quite so well but a good 4/5 ...that ToTP performance was a bit underwhelming though
Great song, love the legalese lyrics.
Our votes for "Legal Man"
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