Glasgow-bred Belle & Sebastian have produced a movie soundtrack, several EPs and six noteworthy albums, including last year’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress. Their rhythmic blend of indie-pop is led by Stuart Murdoch’s gently soothing voice and catchy guitar and keyboard hooks, backed by an assortment of strings and the occasional trumpet. For a band named after a French children’s series about a boy and a dog, Belle & Sebastian are known to many as having one of the most devout followings among the indie rock crowd. Their most recent release, Fans Only, is a DVD documenting the progress of the band that begins a way back in the streets and fields of Scotland.
A brief introduction of the band members starts off the DVD, the most interesting being drummer Richard Colburn’s title of “world’s fussiest eater.” Colburn manages to subsist on only five food items, including rolls, bran flakes and “pasta and chicken surprise – the surprise being it’s not any good at all,” Colburn says.
The first half of the DVD has Belle and Sebastian’s most memorable songs playing along with early footage of the band prancing in meadows and rehearsing in church halls. The earlier videos and band snapshots stand out due to their intimacy, with sometime group vocalist Isobel Campbell coyly smiling and singing on “Is It Wicked Not to Care?”
Another notable scene arises when just two of the seven band members show up to the Brit Awards but the group is clearly more interested in getting autographs and rubbing shoulders with the glitterati than receiving their award.
The later material includes mostly live performances and random appearances on various television shows. The professionally shot material from Glastonbury, Coachella and the Free Jazz Festival in Brazil feels awkward alongside the amateurishly produced, low-budget videos. Although the live footage has the best image quality, it gives seemingly little dimension to the band’s character.
Bland diets aside, the viewer of Fans Only gets little insight into the lives of these exceptional artists, except for a peek at their collective introversion and slight embarrassment at the “rock star” moniker. The best bet is to invest time in the DVD for scenes of charming, scarf-clad Scots picnicking with stuffed animals and not for its live material or hopeful insight into what makes such a charming band tick.
[Michael Drew knows the loneliness of a middle-distance runner.]