Thursday, July 9th, 2009
A United Theory
Review of Stuart Murdoch's God Help The Girl
God Help The GirlI’ll not presume to speak for other Belle & Sebastian fans, but when word came out that Stuart Murdoch was putting the Scottish septet on hiatus to work on a film/stage/musical project, I couldn’t help but be concerned. After all, hiatuses, solo projects and retrospective compilations – last year’s BBC Sessions – don’t usually augur well for the future of a band going forwards.
The future of Belle & Sebastian aside, one can’t help but look on the results of Murdoch’s efforts, manifested as God Help The Girl (the band) and God Help The Girl (the album) – there’s also a “God Help The Girl” (the song) – and be impressed. In recruiting three new female voices to help him fulfill his dream of crafting a set of songs sung from a woman’s perspective and framed in a more orchestral, theatrical context, Murdoch has managed to create a record that’s as familiar and accessible to long-time fans as any new Belle & Sebastian record would have been, but also different enough from the day job to justify its completely separate identity. Though a couple of B&S songs appear here in reimagined form, it’s hard to imagine some of these tunes being done justice by the band. That’s no knock on Sarah Martin, but God Help The Girl demands a certain boldness and brassiness that’s simply not her forte.
Though recent Irish emigree Catherine Ireton takes lead vocals on the majority of tracks and does a lovely job, it’s the wide range of voices throughout the record – The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon, Smoosh’s Asya and Murdoch himself contribute memorable turns – and the rich, string-laden arrangements, courtesy of B&S’ Mick Cooke, that make God Help The Girl such a success. The best songs soar to the same heights as anything Murdoch has ever done and the lesser moments drift amiably by, perhaps needing the visual narrative elements to which they were intended to work properly. That said, I’m not actually sure I’d want to see a filmic version of the record come to light – there’s something special about a soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist and in a less fluffy sense, I worry that without a proper production budget it’d not look as good as it should and thus detract from the overall experience. They did a pretty nice job on the videos so far, though, so perhaps these concerns are unfounded. Either way, even if God Help The Girl doesn’t ever become the multi-platform, multimedia juggernaut that Murdoch envisions, it will remain the unexpectedly attractive second cousin in the Belle & Sebastian family portrait, itself a pretty good-looking clan to begin with.
In this interview with eMusic, Murdoch provides a rough outline of the album’s storyline and says that the film already has a big-time Hollywood producer attached but that work will probably not begin in earnest until the next Belle & Sebastian record is done, with the band coming off hiatus towards the end of this year. Paste has made this month’s cover feature on Stuart Murdoch available online, and Magnet plays over/under with the Belle & Sebastian song catalog.
MP3: God Help The Girl – “Come Monday Night”
MP3: God Help The Girl – “Funny Little Frog”
MP3: God Help The Girl – “Mary’s Market”
Video: God Help The Girl – “Funny Little Frog”
Video: God Help The Girl – “Come Monday Night”
MySpace: God Help The Girl
The National Post, hour.ca and The Singing Lamb get some time with Zach Condon of Beirut, while The Singing Lamb also says hello to tourmates The Dodos. Both are in town tonight for a mega-sold out show at the Phoenix.
Never one who could be accused of being a workaholic, Hope Sandoval will release her second album with The Warm Intentions, aka Colm O’Coisig of My Bloody Valentine, on September 1. Entitled Through The Devil Softly, it will be followed by North American touring this Fall and according to Rolling Stone, there’s another Mazzy Star album in the works.
I’m still waiting for Seattle’s Throw Me The Statue to name an album And I’ll Throw You The Whip, but it hasn’t happened yet. Their new one is called Creaturesque and will be released August 4 – look for them at a venue to be announced in Toronto on August 30.
Echo & The Bunnymen will bring their orchestrally-enhanced live rendering of Ocean Rain to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on October 20. Tickets on sale Saturday for $65. Yowch.
Jeremy Jay will be in town on November 8 at a venue to be announced.