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FOLD YOUR HANDS CHILD YOU WALK LIKE A PEASANT
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Fold Your Hands Child You Walk Like a Peasant
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MP3 Music, June 6, 2000
Belle & Sebastian's songs have always been instantly familiar while simultaneously original and unexpected. Listening to Belle & Sebastian, you have the inexplicable feeling that you have heard these songs somewhere before, filed away with the mothballs of your youth, or that, maybe, you have stumbled upon long-lost tapes of a young Nick Drake being backed by Village Green Preservation Society-era Kinks under the production of some low-rent Phil Spector. The fact that Belle & Sebastian have arrived at their distinct, anachronistic sound quite naturally and by accident is a large part of their charm. It's not surprising, then, that Belle & Sebastian's fourth full-length record, Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant, has arrived with the band's sincerity intact. What is surprising, however, is the record itself: an eclectic mix of the soulful and the sublime, something of a departure for the band. Unlike their last record, the amazing Boy with the Arab Strap, the songs here are not instantly recognizable, but more subtle. The hooks don't automatically grab; instead, the songs' intent is to break you down, seeping into your bloodstream and working on you from the inside out like an infection.
The eclectic feel of the record owes itself to the fact that this is, by far, Belle & Sebastian's most "record by committee" affair yet, with songwriting contributions from several different band members and songs that seem to have been built up from simple ideas into lush orchestral pieces with the musical input of the band's many different instrumentalists. While Stuart Murdoch still writes and sings the bulk of the material, he collaborates with bandmates on a number of songs, including the delicately soulful "Don't Leave the Light on Baby," written with keyboardist Chris Geddes. Unfortunately, songs by Belle & Sebastian cofounder and bassist Stuart David are not to be found on Fold Your Hands (he left the band during the recording). However, violinist Sarah Martin contributes her first song with the haunting "Waiting for the Moon to Rise," while cellist Isobel Campbell adds the record's most surprising track, "Beyond the Sunrise," sounding like a lost Leonard Cohen gem with its spare and fragile arrangement. Guitarist Stevie Jackson, who contributed some of the better songs on Arab Strap, manages only one on this outing, but it's one of the best: "The Wrong Girl," a tale of misplaced love juxtaposed against swinging Spector- like strings and horns. By the time the band reaches "Women's Realm," an infectious, life-affirming romp, the record's message, although never spelled out, is clear: Through all the melancholy and solitude and terrible things that could go wrong, life is still worth fighting for. --Paul Ducey
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I love Stevie Martin's weird vocal contribution in "Beyond the Sunrise" and his unusual American country-style "The Wrong Girl", which doesn't really sound like B&S.
I love "The Chalet Lines" - maybe the most depressing Belle and Sebastian song ever recorded?
All in all there are a good 4 solidly downer tracks toward the beginning of the album, with more of Stuart Murdoch's bouncier tunes toward the end.
The only thing I think it needed was one of Stuart David's spoken-word jazz poetry tracks.
If you're new to Belle and Sebastian, I'd describe them as dreamy, 60's-tinged rock: a cross between Morrissey and Syd Barrett. Classic influences, but they still sound new.
This one distills a near perfect form of B&S at their most mature and soulful. The harmonies are fantastic, the melodies are engaging, and the overall balance of slower songs with fantastic lyrics to the more upbeat energetic numbers is perfect. Contrast to something like The Life Pursuit and that album just sounds like a bunch of random 60s music jumbled together without a purpose. The one thing you have here is the constant interplay between male and female vocals, and Murdoch does not get boring singing the entire record by himself.
Peasant is one of my favorite albums, and one of the top couple that B&S ever made. Period. I don't even take people seriously that dislike this album. You have to at least see the quality on display here even if you don't like the sadder tone and more solemn tone that permeates the record. Side one is fact my favorite array of B&S songs ever made. The second half is still very high quality just a bit different overall. Together the album is a top record. How can you possibly forget or dislike I Fought in a War, Chalet Lines, Nice Day For a Sulk, or the supremely gorgeous Beyond the Sunrise?
I love the female vocals on this album more than any other of their records, and the new ones simply don't sound the same. Waiting for the Moon to Rise is another great gem where its tone and quality have never been heard since. Don't Leave the Light on, Baby? Come on, nothing they do anymore is even close. Even songs like The Model, Women's Realm, and The Wrong Girl are great and inspiring pieces with an energy I just don't find on the modern albums. A lot of it simply comes down to the fantastic female/male interplay that seems sorely missing on a lot of their newer stuff. This album is 5 star quality throughout its duration. There is literally not a bad song on it. Highly recommended.