Belle and Sebastian

I'm a Cuckoo

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"I'm a Cuckoo" is one of the highlights of Belle & Sebastian's fabulous comeback of sorts, Dear Catastrophe Waitress. Coming on like the indie pop version of Thin Lizzy (who get a mention in the lyrics), the song is a laid-back, strummy ballad with low-key harmony lead guitars, a wonderfully loping beat, a surprise horn section on the bridge, and lazily drawled lyrics. Easily the equal of anything they have done up to this point, it is a perfect example of the band's rediscovered attention to arrangement and sound. The other tracks on this EP are no tossed-off space fillers, either. "Stop Look and Listen" is a rollicking, shaggy dog tale that evokes pleasant memories of the Mike Nesmith tunes in the Monkees discography before shifting to a weird surf/spy guitar coda. "(I Believe In) Travellin' Light" was recorded during the same sessions as Dear Catastrophe Waitress with Trevor Horn at the helm. It is a short, sweet ballad with wonderful lead vocal harmonies that call to mind past B&S ballads, and it was probably left off the album for that reason alone. Luckily, it wasn't buried in the vaults, and serves as a great EP track. The remix of "I'm a Cuckoo" by the Avalanches is a dazzling piece of musical Cuisinarting, juxtaposing Stuart Murdoch's very precise vocal with the exuberant background chanting of the Southern Sudanese Choir. Add to that tribal percussion, chirping flutes, and a general sense of joy and you come up with something you rarely find in indie pop (or any other kind of music), a truly surprising and inventive song. Chalk this EP up as a triumph for the band and for indie pop in general. Those who may think it is twee, parochial, or humorless only need give it a spin and they will be begging your pardon with many thanks for opening their ears and minds. [The EP also comes with the alarmingly charming video for "I'm a Cuckoo."]

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