God Help the Girl is the latest project of Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch, which with its affection for old-school settings and songwriterly values, and its showcasing of female vocalists, parallels Paul Heaton's work in the Beautiful South.
Born out of songs written around the time of B&S's Dear Catastrophe Waitress album, God Help the Girl is a concept album of sorts, which illuminates the methods by which we seek to secure love or avoid it depending on our prospective partners and positions. Fronted by a series of (mostly female) vocalists, and set to pop-folk backings laced with 1960s-style string arrangements that owe more to Norrie Paramor and John Barry than Van Dyke Parks or Jack Nitzsche, Murdoch's songs track the intricacies of repulsion and attraction, delusion and connivance, with more intelligence than La Roux bring to bear on similar matters. Catherine Ireton, who handles most of the vocal duties, brings a wry sardonicism to the contrary protagonist of "Act of the Apostle", vacillating between obsession and contempt, while Neil Hannon animates the emotionally messy tableaux of "Perfection as a Hipster", in which our picky heroine succumbs to a nocturnal liaison that offers her scant relief: "My dream was realised, but I was sleeping."
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