God Help the Girl is the project of Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian. It’s a fourteen song story created by Murdoch meant to be accompanied by his musical craftwork. His devotion to the craft of pop writing has expanded greatly as evidenced by this album, which began during his writing for Dear Catastrophe Waitress.
Unlike most Murdoch penned songs, this entire album is fairly void of his soft-spoken voice, instead being replaced by Catherine Ireton on almost every song, aside from “Funny Little Frog” and the two instrumental tracks, “A United Theory” and “The Music Room Window.”
Here we find a remaking of The Life Pursuit’s “Act of the Apostle” opening the album, though it hardly seems recognizable, if any connection at all. This version comes with Ireton’s vocals accompanied by some appropriate string arrangements. For all intents and purposes you see this song as the introduction of the story’s narrator.
“God Help the Girl” quickly follows the opener, and it’s one of the most similar to the traditional Murdoch stylings. Piano backbone and Ireton’s delivery remind you of other Glaswegian band Camera Obscura, which is all the more appropriate seeing as that band, and this project, both travel back in time to 60s pop girl groups. You can just imagine this song coming across with a dance routine and sharply dressed females filling the void in sound.
“Pretty Eve in the Tub” is a track one can possibly dismiss, but it’s going to strike home with most listeners, including the author, for the full use of Murdoch’s voice during the song. It’s one of the few instances here when he steps in front of the microphone during this project. However, he also utilizes his voice to trade verses during “Hiding Neath My Umbrella.” Such a song seems fitting in the B&S catalog, though the string arrangements take it further into the musical spectrum. You’ll find that Murdoch’s arrangements allow for the presentation to go beyond their usual limits.
One of the more developed songs is “Musician, Please Take Heed.” Slowly, for the first minute, it builds with the focus playing upon the vocals, but then the chugging jangly guitars Stuart typically utilizes come into play. From here the song takes off with a galloping pace as strings are added atop the entire track. Stuart then returns in the following track with “Perfection as a Helper.” Backing vocals are so noticeable in this song, which is due to their immediate throwback quality. At this point, it’s clear just how far he’s really pushed himself in the production of the album.
Every song makes a powerful statement on the album, and there isn’t one that really goes awry when put into the perspective of the album as a story. Murdoch is at his best with his songwriting, and even the closing moments are spectacular, such as “I’ll Have to Dance with Cassie.” Lovers of his pop song writing will see he’s gone beyond his concise tunes and into a whole other world; this album is the better for it.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/02-god-help-the-girl.mp3]
Download: God Help the Girl [MP3]