Belle & Sebastian: Fans Only (DVD)

Belle & Sebastian: Fans Only (DVD)

Belle & Sebastian's obscurity used to be part of its shtick and its charm. When the band first emerged from the U.K. indie-pop scene in the mid-'90s, press photos and interviews were scarce, and for years, its earliest singles and its debut album were hard to track down. But commerce is commerce: The complete Belle & Sebastian discography is now readily available, and on the heels of Dear Catastrophe Waitress, its most accessible album to date, the band has compiled its few music videos onto the DVD Fans Only, padding them out with TV appearances and home movies. Sadly, the set's title is accurate. The performance snippets and coy interviews are more teasing than informative, and the videos are by and large indistinguishable from the watery soup of goof-off footage surrounding them. The DVD's greatest value is in showing Belle & Sebastian working, which looks much like lazing around; bandleader Stuart Murdoch mutters quietly into a microphone while his mates pick up stray instruments and gradually work up momentum. With these bits of musical intensity and the odd moment when the band pays tribute to its art-rock and global pop influences (including a memorable spot on a Brazilian talk show), Fans Only makes the case for Belle & Sebastian as a bright, humble interpreter of a certain kind of smartly youthful ennui. But it does so while sullying the group's reputation a little. In the early days, Belle & Sebastian cultivated the air of a cool-headed, unapproachable Scottish artists' collective, infatuated with romantic poets, French New Wave cinema, and the institutional hypocrisy of rock stardom. Fans Only makes the band's members look more like shy amateurs, a transformation that's both sweetly humanizing and disappointingly demystifying.

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