Before hipster (in its most recent incarnation) was a thing, there was fey. And it was OK. It was perfectly fine to wear a cardigan and enjoy harmless indie-pop. It was not only fine, but rather splendid in fact to be a member of the Sinister mailing list, set up in 1997 by and for Belle & Sebastian fans, and which allowed a free flow of their most endearing and innocent musings through bedrooms up and down the land. Or in my case, the office’s “internet computer”. That’s right, the computer that was connected to the internet. The one we could use to check our emails if it was free. Because, for a while, there was only one. What a world we lived in. I probably still used phonecards (I definitely still used phonecards), and cashback was exciting enough that you might ask for it even when you didn’t need any.
Belle & Sebastian released a hat-trick of superb EPs in 1997, starting with Dog On Wheels, and finishing with 3.. 6.. 9 Seconds of Light. Sandwiched between them was Lazy Line Painter Jane, which was released in July, and very nearly broke the Top 40, peaking at #41.
Having already released two albums the previous year - the limited release Tigermilk and If You’re Feeling Sinister - and with another one on the way the following year this was a time in which the Glasgow band seemed to have an unlimited supply of sweet tales to tell and gentle melodies with which to tell them. 1997’s EPs effectively amounted to a whole album between them, and together they amounted to the first disc of the 2005 compilation Push Barman to Open Old Wounds.
There’s nary a filler track to be found, and although the opening track on each EP is the obvious picks, there are gems to be found throughout, such as a different version of The State I am In from the one to be found on Tigermilk, and the glorious runaway train that is Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie.
Lazy Line Painter Jane itself is undoubtedly the pick of the songs. Beefier than Dog on Wheels, it features a glorious guest vocal from Monica Queen, swirling organs, guitars turned up, handclaps, and a noise and energy that Belle & Sebastian had kept mostly hidden up to this point. As it gathers steam, the force is irresistible, culminating in an outro that is completely owned by an organ seemingly played by an uncredited crazed madman who wandered into the church where the song was being recorded and felt like hammering away for a few frenzied minutes.