Dear Catastrophe Waitress
was a make or break album for Belle & Sebastian. Having lost two founder members (Stuart David to Looper and Isobel Campbell to the Gentle Waves) and produced a couple of endearing but not hugely exciting albums (their soundtrack to Todd Solondz's Storytelling
film and their own Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant
), the pressure was on for the Scottish indie-pop six-piece to provide a startling return to form.
The presence of Trevor Horn (the man behind Tatu and Frankie Goes to Hollywood) as producer suggested that a stylistic leap was imminent. But would it be at the cost of the group's unique charm? Thankfully not. Chief songwriter Stuart Murdoch has clearly been listening to a lot of Randy Newman and Joe Jackson, along with a touch of Thin Lizzy, and Horn manages to meld these new influences with the trademark B&S sound. "Step into My Office Baby" is orchestral pop with a cheeky, almost raucous bent. "If She Wants Me" pulls off a flirtation with Orange Juice-style funk, while "Stay Loose" could be Squeeze covering "Space Oddity". On the more traditional B&S songs (the title track, "Wrapped Up in Books", live favourite "Lord Anthony"), the ante is upped simply by the quality of songwriting, which is a match for anything from the Tigermilk glory days.
For a band whose best work seemed long behind them, Dear Catastrophe Waitress is just what was ordered. Not simply a return to form, but a bright new future. --Ian Watson
Their classic 2003 album available on double vinyl with gatefold and MP3 coupon. Includes the hit singles, "Step Into My Office, Baby" and "I'm A Cuckoo". "Murdoch's gift for loopy, tender, unshakeable hymns, stomps, and meditations is untouchable" - Blender. "The painstaking arrangements, dynamic shifts and tempo changes equal or surpass the chamber-pop perfection of the group's earlier work" - Popmatters.