When you’ve been as obsessed with a band like Belle & Sebastian as long as I have, and when that obsession proves unshakable, it’s inevitable that you begin to notice some thematic similarities between songs. Here now are the top 20 B&S songs involving troubled young people.
20. “Dear Catastrophe Waitress”
The Gist: Everything goes wrong for a waitress.
Relevant Lyric: Dear catastrophe girlfriend / I’m sorry if he hit you with a full can of Coke / It’s no joke / Your face is bleeding / You’ll soon be leaving this town / To the clowns who worship / No one but themselves
19. “If She Wants Me”
The Gist: A young man wants to reconcile himself to his passion for artistic creativity, but also to his love for a troubled young woman.
Relevant Lyric: If I could do just one near perfect thing I’d be happy / They’d write it on my grave, or when they scattered my ashes / On second thoughts I’d rather hang about and be there with my best friend / If she wants me
18. “Calculating Bimbo”
The Gist: A calculating bimbo can’t let the past go.
Relevant Lyric: You calculating bimbo / I wish you’d let the past go
17 (tie). “Act of the Apostles Part I”
The Gist: Troubled young woman struggles with her identity and faith as the life around her begins to crumble. Heavy religious undertones.
Relevant Lyric: Later on she plays Morning Has Broken / She knows she’s bad / She is slowing everybody down / The choirmaster, usually a bastard, knows her mother’s sick / He’ll be nice to her…She thinks that she shouldn’t be there at all / Her worries make everything else seem trivial.
17 (tie). “Act of the Apostles Part II”
The Gist: The same troubled young woman skipped school to travel a good distance to a city, only to find that it wouldn’t provide any answers.
Relevant Lyric: She asked the man if the service was open / “Not today, just the choir from the radio” / “Couldn’t I sit in? I’ve come all this way” / “Will you bugger off, I’ve got work to do” / The city was losing its appeal / God was asleep / He was back in her village, in the fields.
16. “Belle and Sebastian”
The Gist: A young man watches his female friend become a star while he wallows in self-pity and worry.
Relevant Lyric: Oh, Sebastian wrote his diary that / He would never be young again / But you will / Fellow, you are ill / You’d better take a weight off of your mind and listen / To what other people say / Because things are going wrong your own way
15. “Family Tree”
The Gist: A troubled young woman gets thrown out of school for yelling at teachers and hates her family.
Relevant Lyric: If my family tree goes back to the Romans / Then I will change my name to Jones / If my family tree goes back to Napolean / Then I will change my name to Smith
14. “Dress Up in You”
The Gist: A young woman watches her female friend become a star while she wallows in self-pity and manufactured drama.
Relevant Lyric: When things don’t go my way I have to / Blow up in the face of my rivals / I swear and I rant, I make quite an arrival / The men are surprised by the language / They act so discreet, they are hypocrites, so fuck them too!
The Gist: A troubled young woman and aspiring artist gets abuse from her teachers, peers, parents, and employers.
Relevant Lyric: Your obsessions get you known throughout the school for being strange / Making life-size models of the Velvet Underground in clay
12. “Dirty Dream Number Two”
The Gist: A young person of indeterminate gender, but probably male, has two wet dreams, one about a funny person and one about a woman whose face he never saw.
Relevant Lyric: Things creep up on you when you are fast asleep / You are dreaming, you are sleepy / You are stuck to the sheets
11. “Fox in the Snow”
The Gist: A girl with a crazy laugh and a boy who obsessively bikes past the point of enjoyment are…troubled.
Relevant Lyric: Boy on the bike, what are you like / As you cycle round the town? / You’re going up, you’re going down / You’re going nowhere / It’s not as if they’re paying you / It’s not as if it’s fun
The Gist: A girl named Lisa is depressed, and either literally or metaphorically goes blind before making herself a pair of orthopedic shoes.
Relevant Lyric: The doctor told her years ago that she was ill / The doctor told her years ago to take a pill / The doctor told her years ago / That she’d go blind if she wasn’t careful / They let Lisa go blind
9. “If You’re Feeling Sinister”
The Gist: Two young people, Anthony and Hillary, “walk to their death” because religion isn’t compelling enough to make them hopeful about their difficult lives.
Relevant Lyric: But if you are feeling sinister / Go off and see a minister / He’ll try in vain to take away / The pain of being a hopeless unbeliever
8. “Judy and the Dream of Horses”
The Gist: Judy is a teenage rebel who only takes solace in a dream about horses.
Relevant Lyric: Judy was a teenage rebel / She did it with a boy when she was young / She gave herself to books and learning / She gave herself to being number one
7. “Judy is a Dickslap”
The Gist: Judy, apparently, is a dicklsap.
Relevant Lyric: (Instrumental)
6. “Marx and Engels”
The Gist: A girl with communist sympathies wants to be left alone from a man trying to hit on her so she can read her two favorite authors.
Relevant Lyric: She spoke in dialect I could not understand / But one thing that she made clear / There was no coming on to her / There was no way
5. “Slow Graffiti”
The Gist: A young man is forced to take care of the wild girl he’s in love with, but it brings him nothing but grief and sadness.
Relevant Lyric: Listen, Johnny / You’re like a mother / To the girl you’ve fallen for / And you’re still falling
4. “I Could Be Dreaming”
The Gist: A young man disenchanted with his family wonders if he has the nerve to kill the abusive boyfriend of a woman he loves.
Relevant Lyric: Is he your husband? / Or just your boyfriend? / Is he the moron who’s been beating you and keeping you inside? / I’ve never done this kind of thing / But if I kill him now, who’s going to miss him?
3. “Lord Anthony”
The Gist: A smart young man named Anthony gets picked on in school and grows up to become a cross-dresser.
Relevant Lyric: Tony, you’re a bit of a mess / Melted Toblerone under your dress / And if the boys could see you they would pass you right by / Blue mascara running over your eye
2. “Lazy Line Painter Jane”
The Gist: A lazy girl named Jane takes a bus out of town and determines that she will prostitute herself on the bus to make some money.
Relevant Lyric: You are of two minds / Tossing a coin to decide / Whether you should tell your folks / About a dose of thrush you got / When licking railings
1. “The State I Am In”
The Gist: A young man experiences a brief reprieve from his parents when his brother comes out as gay, married a girl to save her from being deported, kicked his friend’s crutches away because thought he was endowed by God to cure cripples, confessed his many sins to a priest who then wrote a book about them, gave his soul to God (who was reluctant), and now wanders around clothing stores and takes buses for no reason.
Relevant Lyric: I gave myself to sin / I gave myself to providence / And I’ve been there and back again / The state that I am in