The third of three EPs released during 1997 by the seven-member Glaswegian pop group Belle and Sebastian. 3.. 6.. 9 Seconds of Light came to light, as it were, on October 13, 1997, on the UK Jeepster label. The record was re-released by Matador Records in North America in 2000 under the collective title Lazy Line Painter Jane along with the Dog on Wheels and Lazy Line Painter Jane EPs. The set can be purchased at most any self-respecting independent music store, and even at a few mainstream outlets.

3.. 6.. 9 Seconds of Light is especially remakable because it was Belle and Sebastian's first top 40 hit, debuting at 32. Lazy Line Painter Jane had previously hit 41 ("...much to Chris Geddes (keyboards) amusement, as he had made a bet with Jeepster boss Mark Jones that it would not get in," says the band's Jeepster biography "http://www.jeepster.co.uk/belleandsebastian/biog/") and Dog on Wheels had made 59 on the singles chart.

Tracks
A Century of Fakers — (4.30)
Le Pastie De La Bourgeoisie — (3.10)
Beautiful — (5.13)
Put The Book Back On The Shelf — (6.24)
          Songs For Children — *** "hidden" track


3.. 6.. 9 Seconds Of Light (which is referred to sometimes with only two sets of ".." and sometimes with three, even by B&S' label) opens with a strong feeling of deja vu: A Century of Fakers uses the same instrumental track as Lazy Line Painter Jane's "A Century of Elvis." The track has a lilty, pleasant melody, with evocative string and guitar elements as well as loopy keyboards. Vocalist/guitarist/lyricist Stuart Murdoch is at his most whispery, Nick Drake volume, lisping lyrics with a sharp, acerbic quality that seem to denounce the falseness and superficiality of the entire world, as channelled through an annoying accquaintance. Murdoch's vocals are accompanied later in the song by a feminine voice, perhaps Isobel Campbell or Sarah Martin.

Of Le Pastie De La Bourgeoisie the Jeepster B&S FAQ says: "The phrase is not correct in that it's supposed to roughly translate as 'The apathy of the upper class', but to be honest no-one seems to be able to work out the language this was written in, so it doesn't translate as anything of the kind :)". Ah well! This track begins with old-school organ and a shimmering guitar splash. Its tempo and instrumentation are reminiscent of Lazy Line Painter Jane, and its lyrics speak of the intellectual teen angst that so many of us know so well. The song tells of a teen girl who is "too tall, much to tall for a boyfriend / They run and hide, from your buckteeth and split ends." Finding solace in the American literature of Judy Blume, J.D Salinger ("Give yourself up to the allure of / Catcher In The Rye / The future's swathed in Stars and Stripes"), and Jack Kerouac. I was reminded of the lines about the latter writer—"Wouldn't you like to get away? / Kerouac's beckoning with open arms, / And open roads of eucalyptus / Westward bound"—as I reread The Dharma Bums today:

It was a cool clear Arabian Night dusk with the tower clock of University of Cal a clean black shadow against a backdrop of cypress and eucalyptus and all kinds of trees, bells ringing somewhere, and the air crisp.

The song suggests that the heroine thinks she will find a new life in America. Murdoch's lyrics and vocal delivery show a slight tone of mockery toward his subject, but it is the tender, sympathetic mocking that one might suspect from someone who once felt the same.

Beautiful is a slower, sadder, and more quiet song. The main character of this narrative is Lisa, whose outer beauty obscures physical sickness and depression. I've just decided that these are some of Stuart Murdoch's best lyrics, telling a touching complete story. Its lyrics are printed in its own node (way at the bottom), but I'll print some of them here because they are so good:

They let Lisa go blind
She's looking like a queen
But if you knew what's going on in her life
There'd be a thousand barren mothers there to talk to her
If you knew what's going on in her life
There'd be two hundred troubled teenagers there to sit with her
And talk to her
If you knew what's going on in her life
What's going on in her life
There would be a documentary on Radio 4

Trumpet Solo Spot

She made herself a pair of orthopaedic shoes
She thought it was an answer to the fashion blues
She made herself a pair of orthopaedic shoes
But she walked with a limp

These lines are such subtle poetry, communicating the depths of Lisa's despair as well as the power of human sympathy (albeit in a slightly humorous and hyperbolic manner). The last stanza is an apt metaphor that shows how futile and superficial self-improvement can be. The earlier lines "But everyone she knew thought she was beautiful / Only slightly mental / Beautiful, a bit temperamental / Beautiful, only slightly mental", as well as the entire song, remind me of a girl I have loved on the lower frequencies for more than two years, a beautiful girl whose angelic interior seemed to conceal deep sadness. *sigh* But enough about me, and in any case, this song has an awesome trumpet solo.

Put The Book Back On The Shelf is another song (like "Belle and Sebastian" on Dog On Wheels) about the character Sebastian. The song is a at a midway between "Beautiful" and "Le Pastie De La Bourgeoisie," as far as tempo and instrumentation go. Another trumpet solo features as prominently as only a solo can, as Murdoch and girly voice sing about hapless Sebastian, who meanders through life, whose life has not been "worth talking about." "You're always looking for a sign / But boy you blow it every time / You hear a voice begin to speak / You ignore it and go softly to sleep." Just listen to your heart, man! The song actually ends at about 3.30, though the track continues into...

...the "hidden" Songs for Children, with a far-away sound and lyrics about "Belle and Sebastian / on the radio / playing songs for children." These lines are probably a tongue in cheek reference to the "precious," twee (a word combination I have uncreatively used in all three of my last writeups) sound of Belle and Sebastian's music. A harmonica solo buzzes through as Murdoch apologizes, saying "I'm really sorry / for all the trouble we've caused..." to me, a possible reference to Belle and Sebastian's deceptively adult lyrical themes.

Belle and Sebastian were: ***

Chris Geddes (keyboards)
Sarah Martin (violin)
Isobel Campbell (cello)
Stevie Jackson (guitar)
Stuart Murdoch (guitar, lyrics, vocals)
Stuart David (bass)
Richard Colburn (drums)

*** All the members of the band play multiple instruments, this info is just general.


Sources:

http://www.jeepster.co.uk/belleandsebastian/
http://www.jeepster.co.uk/belleandsebastian/faq/
http://www.belleandsebastian.co.uk/home/
http://www.allmusic.com

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