BELLE AND SEBASTIAN – TIGERMILK
Released June 6, 1996 – 20 years ago
Belle & Sebastian’s debut initially was released in a quantity of only 1000, intended as the final project of a music business course. It became an unexpected word-of-mouth sensation in the UK and was re-released in 1999 after the critical success of the band’s sophomore and third albums. With its lovelorn lyrics and infections, yet simple, melodies, it stands as one of their best – an indie-twee pop treasure!
The Classic Pick is a weekly feature at 4 p.m. Monday-Friday on The Home Stretch, sponsored by the Good Oak Bar and curated by Kris Kerry. Each Monday at 4 p.m. Kris stops by KXCI’s studio to give us insight on this classic album at 91.3 FM and KXCI.org.
Belle and Sebastian was formed in Glasgow, Scotland in January 1996 by Stuart Murdoch, who was enrolled in Stow College. As part of a music business course, Murdoch decided to form a band and release a record for his final project. He assembled the seven-piece group by recruiting members at an all-night café. All college students, the group consisted of Sarah Martin (violin), Stevie Jackson (guitar), Chris Geddess (keyboards), Richard Colburn (drums), Stuart David (bass), Isobel Campbell (cello), and himself (guitar and vocals). On formation, all members expected to stay small-scale and imagined they would break up within a few years… they have released nine studio albums to date.
Tigermilk, as the final project of Murdoch’s music business course, was released in early June of 2016. Only 1000 copies pressed on vinyl were originally released of Tigermilk. It was released on the college’s independent label, Electric Honey. Unexpectedly, the album became a word-of-mouth sensation, quickly selling out and attracting a lot of attention from critics and commercial record labels alike.
Belle and Sebastian signed to Jeepster Records in the UK and Matador in the US in August of 1996, releasing their sophomore release, If You’re Feeling Sinister, widely considered the band’s masterpiece, in November of that same year. With the release of their third album, The Boy with the Arab Strap (1998), Bell and Sebastian were reaching cult status, cultivating a growing and fervent fan base. In 1999 Tigermilk was re-released on Jeepster and Matador to capitalize on the band’s growing popularity. Most fans were not able to hear Belle and Sebastian’s debut until 1999.
Tigermilk was recorded at the prestigious Ca Va Studios in Glasgow. Opened in 1974, Ca Va Studios has hosted an impressive list of musicians, including Rage Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mogwai, The Fall, David Byrne, Snow Patrol, and The Proclaimers among others.
Production credit goes to Alan Rankine. Rankine was working as a lecturer at Stow College when Murdoch was attending school. As lecturer, Rankine helped students form their own label in 1992 (Electric honey), which, in turn, released Tigermilk. Rankine had played in several smaller post-punk acts in the early 1980s, graduating to engineering and production work. Prior to working as lecturer at Stow College, he had worked with several other acts most notably the Cocteau Twins.
Tigermilk is an excellent example of indie pop and twee pop. Indie pop is more melodic and less noisy with a greater emphasis on harmonies, arrangements, and songcraft, than the more typical “indie” rock music. Twee is D.I.Y. like most other indie or punk, however lyrically and sonically there is more of an emphasis on innocence and simplicity.
Though often enjoying substantial critical praise, Belle and Sebastian has attained only limited commercial success through the years. While never obtaining mainstream acknowledgement, their fan base has risen to cult status and they have acquired numerous critical accolades. NME awarded Bell and Sebastian the prestigious Outstanding Contribution to Music Award to them in 2014.
Pitchfork named Tigermilk’s “The State I’m In” number 17 on their top songs from the 1990s. Also, Tigermilk is included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
Several songs from Tigermilk have been included in movies and television: “I Don’t Love Anyone” was featured in the film The Devil Wears Prada (2006) and on the HBO series Girls, “Expectations” and “My Wandering Days Are Over” were in the film Juno, and “We Rule the School” was featured on an episode of How I Met Your Mother.
Belle and Sebastian took their name from a French children’s television series about a boy and his dog.
Original vinyl copies of the 1996 Tigermilk release on Electric Honey are highly sought by collectors, fetching prices well over $600.