Monday, March 12, 2007

If you're feeling sinister.

Put the Book Back on the Shelf - Various Creators inspired by the songs and music of Belle and Sebastian

What an interesting idea for an anthology. Stories influenced or reflecting Belle and Sebastian songs. I like this trend that I’m seeing in anthologies these days. Yes, they’re still artist showcases but building them around a theme, no matter how loosely interpreted, seems to work better for me. I’ve always liked the idea of anthologies better than the finished product, and while that’s still true with these themed based ones I do appreciate the effort and I’m more likely to get a themed anthology on something I really like, like race relations.

I find it a bit hard to review this collection though because I keep reducing my ideas down to aesthetics and, well, I guess maybe that’s the point. I don’t particularly want to detail my thoughts on each story influenced by a Belle and Sebastian song and I don’t want to particularly point out my favourites. I have them and that should really be enough because it doesn’t reveal anything about the book rather than reveal my personal tastes – and you don’t really need to know what they are, do you?

My experience with Belle and Sebastian is that they were one of the last two mixed tapes I ever received from a friend. Same friend, different bands for the last one I received. You remember tapes don’t you? The most indestructible recording form known to man. So, anyway, I know some Belle and Sebastian songs when I hear them but have no idea what they’re called or what album they’re from. Some I’ve managed to figure out and others are easily identifiable, or my friend who gave me the tape kept referring them by name so I now know what they are. What I’m trying to get at here is that this anthology plugged into a whole set of memories for me. The collection itself is essentially a mixed tape of stories and should be enjoyed as such. There are the songs you like, the songs you fast forward and the songs that you don’t like at first but grow on you to become your favourites because they’re not as obvious as the ones you first liked. The same goes for this collection really.

There is enough art here to make any fan of the comic book medium happy. If you want more than just purdy pictures you’re also in luck as there are some pretty solid narratives here as well. Part of the fun is just in seeing how vastly different these stories are. Like a lot of Belle and Sebastian songs this collection has an instant feeling of cute and comfortable but under the surface there is something. There’s a lot of cute and artsy-cute type of artwork but there’s also some pretty dark subject matter thrown in throughout. You feel it should be more airy and light but it only appears that way next to something that is fairly dark. Some of the contributors chose to focus on the airy light presentation while others focused on the dark narratives while others tried to capture both.

The only thing I really wish is that my mixed tape didn’t break years ago so I could pop it into my decaying cassette player and reacquaint myself with these songs. I felt at a bit of a loss because I wasn’t totally and instantly familiar with Belle and Sebastian’s oeuvre, although I do consider myself a fan. I guess I’m just lucky that my local pub’s manager has their CDs on his weeknight rotation so I’m not totally out of the loop. In the end I can recommend this book to anyone looking for an anthology to see how utterly different one comic book story can be from another but I’m just not familiar enough to say if you’re a fan of the band you’ll like a comic book inspired by their songs. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to give it a shot because there’s enough variety to have at the very least one story you like.

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