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Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant

music reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant

Artist: Belle & Sebastian
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: June 2000

Review by LarryG
2 stars out of 4

Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant is a step backwards for Belle & Sebastian. Or maybe it's just a case of diminishing returns. It's not as good as The Boy With The Arab Strap, Belle & Sebastian's last CD. But the main problem is there's nothing new on the new CD and the same kind of polite, well made, unassuming music isn't as interesting if repeated without much variation.

The record starts with a declaration that the band isn't beefing up their sound. Stuart Murdoch starts I Fought In A War with low key a capella vocals. The song builds with a fanfare of strings and horns but Murdoch's vocals remain uninflected. The lyrics, about being a soldier facing the horrors of war and fearing the girl he left behind is with another, are good but I'll be damned if I know what they have to do with their young 21st century English singer. I Fought In A War is about as clear as the band gets. Most of the writing on Fold Your Hands is pretty obscure. Murdoch's singing projects a slacker cool: a hipness in not getting worked up or trying too hard. Murdoch's passivity extends to the words of Don't Leave The Light On Baby. The stark sadness of the music is appealing but it's hard to care about someone singing "best to go down without a fight" as his relationship faces trouble.The band courts self parody, drawing attention to their unexciting, quaint Englishness, by calling a song Nice Day For A Sulk. The song is quite pleasant, with an easy piano filled mood but Murdoch's singing is defiantly tuneless. A singer even more ponderous than Murdoch sings the hymnlike Beyond The Sunrise. Things improve with Isobel Campbell's better and less affected voice on the sweet love song Waiting For The Moon To Rise and on Family Tree.

Fold Your Hands continues the band's formula of mixing very quiet songs with more lively ones. It's welcome when Belle & Sebastian break the monotomy but even the faster songs seem like retreads. Woman's Realm is fun but, with its Motown beat, it's nearly a remake of Arab Strap's Dirty Dream Number One. The Model gets a little energy from strings and keyboards and a decent beat but the lyric seems to be filled with inside jokes like: "she met another blind kid at a fancy dress/it was the best sex she ever had." The Wrong Girl works. Murdoch gives as much energy as he can as he mocks conventional pop song, singing that he went looking for a true love and found one, but she's the wrong one.

Like its predecessors, Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant has a smart, smooth sound and works as background music. It still is striking that the band resists the attention grabbing ploys of most popular music. There's something refreshing about an unassuming, unaggressive band that eschews showy vocals and electric guitars for strings, harpsichords and clear, tuneful arrangements. It just seems like time for the band to let their sound evolve a little and sharpen their edge. Morrissey was able to be shy and introspective and still allow Johnny Marr's guitars to make the Smiths' songs more inviting. Everything But The Girl maintained their reticence but broadened their appeal by emphasizing a beat. Belle & Sebastian could retain their trademark politeness and still show a little life.



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