|1. It Could Have Been A Brilliant Career|
|2. Sleep The Clock Around|
|3. Is It Wicked Not To Care?|
|4. Ease Your Feet In The Sea|
|5. A Summer Wasting|
|6. Seymour Stein|
|7. A Space Boy Dream|
|8. Dirty Dream Number Two|
|9. The Boy With The Arab Strap|
|11. Simple Things|
|12. The Rollercoaster Ride|
"Arab Strap" starts off with "It Could Have Been a Brilliant Career," an elusive, quirky little tune that builds up from near silence. Following it up is the almost-catchy, percussive "Sleep the Clock Around," the darkly beautiful title track, the wistful "Summer Wasting," the lulling "Seymour Stein" with its magnificently shivery organ, and finally it finishes up with the pretty, downbeat "Rollercoaster Ride."
Nobody makes the sad stuff any prettier than Belle & Sebastian. "Boy With the Arab Strap" is not quite perfect -- "Seymour Stein," despite its lyrical brilliance, has a forgettable little tune, and the lyrics vary wildly. But their work here is certainly enjoyable and beautiful, balancing out the sweetness, the humor, the melancholy, and the coffee-shop-poet dissatisfaction with life.
The songs brim over with vague unhappiness, an ethereal sense of how the world is full of misery. It's best shown in "Boy With the Arab Strap": Stuart Murdoch sings with deceptive perkiness, "Do you ever feel you have gone too far?/Everyone suffers in silence a burden..." Murdoch let the others do several of the songs for this album, which gives a vague, weird feeling of creative unevenness.
Stuart Murdoch does most of the vocals, and his murmuring voice seems perfectly suited to the songs. And the piano and shimmering violin are backed up by the keyboard, organs, jazzy percussion, delicate chimes and little sonic flourishes like a jet going overhead. One highlight is the delicious bagpipe solo in "Sleep the Clock Around," which completely dominates the music.
The dismally lovely music of Belle & Sebastian is in good, though not perfect form on "Boy With the Arab Strap." Best advised for those who dream of dark coffee-houses, and poetry that drips with loneliness.