Belle & Sebastian fans are a lot like Woody Allen fans. They still turn up and pay for the new releases but their hearts really belong to the earlier, funnier work.
I am, by no means a completist when it comes to Belle & Sebastian (and I don’t stray past Hannah and Her Sisters when it comes to Woody Allen) but I have found some absolute gems in their latter day catalogue by virtue of being a filthy casual in a world of obsessives.
Nobody’s Empire is the opening track from their 2015 album Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance. It was also the set opener when I saw them live in the September of that year at Festival No.6.
An MOR inflected piano line refrains over and over in a smooth 80’s radio friendly kind of way while the band gently explore the shape of the songs melody.
The lyrics may be cookie cutter fey indie for some, but I’d argue they are no less ‘of their genre’ than AC/DC doing another song about being rock and roll or a metal band penning another ode to the dark lord himself.
‘Someone sang a song and I sang along because I knew the words from my childhood, intellect, ambition fell away and they locked me up for my own good’ could not personify the traditional indie scene better than Paradise City sums up the heavy metal parking lot.
This isn’t bedwetter indie by the numbers. it’s a masterclass in ‘what has C86 and the DIY scene ever done for us’.
There’s wit and pathos on display here. In the music and in lines like
‘I was tied to the yoke with a decent bloke who was stern but never daunting, and he told me to push and he made me feel well, and he told me to leave that vision of hell to the dying’
2015 was a rough year for my Wife and I. We lost our home and our business in the spring. The summer had some real low points for us emotionally and financially too. Nobody’s Empire accompanied me on many a soul searching’ dog walk or stare into the abyss. Hearing it live that September had me in tears.