Belle and Sebastian

Jonathan David [CD/12"]

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The B&S railroad rebounds from that mess of unforeseen mediocrity, the "Legal Man" EP. Perhaps it's hard to carp at a group that's restored the lost Brit tradition of "all exclusive tracks" EPs (making them like Buzzcocks, the Smiths, or Mega City Four in that regard), as opposed to LP singles with rip-off B-sides on two separate CDs. But "Legal Man" mixed an advanced sense of humor with... shockingly zero musical inspiration. So, hurrah, these three tunes tap back into this bunch's pumping artery of graceful, sonorous songcraft. Perhaps "Jonathan David" should have been sung by superior talent Stuart Murdoch, but its piano-driven brooding chords (enhanced by an eerie church organ) support a sterling melody more arresting than anything off Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant. Great Zombies-inspired a cappella harmony bridge, too! Then, when Murdoch retakes the mike on the oddly titled "Take Your Carriage Clock and Shove It," he trills over deep orchestral violins, cellos, and sweet country lap steel that float like carefree balloons, making old fans swoon the world over. Finally, the similarly excellent, more bouncy/jaunty "The Loneliness of a Middle Distance Runner" wins official release at last.

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