Sorry, Belle & Sebastian fans. Stuart Murdoch may be the brains behind this project—the eventual soundtrack to his partially written musical film—but don’t expect a Tigermilk-like masterpiece. Never mind that the B&S front man recruited his band mates to play on these showtune-y ditties (backed by a 45-piece orchestra), or that he jazzed up B&S favorites “Funny Little Frog” and “Act of the Apostle” for the occasion. The trouble with God Help the Girl, a pretty but forgettable affair, is the singing. Murdoch hired other people (mostly ladies) to do it for him, which is baffling considering his delicate, lispy whisper puts them all to shame.
Of the nine singers chosen here, Irish unknown Catherine Ireton takes lead on the majority of the tracks; her voice is perfectly smooth, unfeeling and bland. Murdoch would have done better to assign the whole thing to Asya, from Seattle sister trio Smoosh. The 17-year-old ably lends her sulky croon to “I Just Want His Jeans,” a tense ode of sorts to young lust, whose lyrics (“An hour in the park or an hour on the couch/With the boy of my choice if he makes me go ‘ouch’!”) land somewhere between naughty and creepy.
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Generally speaking, Murdoch does not stray far from his usual subject matter: Some boy or girl feels lonely (the nursery rhyme-esque “Pretty Eve In the Tub”), bored (the almost-too-cute “God Help the Girl”) or shy (the lush, dreamy “Hiding ’Neath My Umbrella”), with upbeat melodies belying their troubled minds. Head-bopper “I’ll Have to Dance With Cassie” does hint at a somewhat-happy ending, as Ireton substitutes boogying for a boyfriend, but it’s hard to piece together any sort of story line or care much about these characters. Best to wait for the movie (or the next B&S album).