i have a love/hate relationship with belle & sebastian, that is to say that i hate myself for loving them and i don’t know how much longer this particular arrangement can last. for the longest time, i hated belle & sebastian; for their image, mostly, and for the handful of songs i had heard. then, upon some advice, i downloaded “lazy line painter jane,” and the spark of love formed in my heart, a spark that would grow into a flame before being sussed out, and then it would begin again. i came to the conclusion (because i always have to justify things to myself) that if the smiths were scottish and not a rock band and if they spent more time staring at their navels than at their reflection in the mirror, they’d be belle & sebastian. the other night, i counted that there were exactly eleven belle & sebastian songs that i unequivocably love; the problem is that i think the remainder is mostly bilge. for every “the boy with the arab strap,” there’s a “family tree,” “belle & sebastian,” and “chickfactor.” any fan or non-fan will tell you that fold your hands was a piece of poo. i’m sorry it’s just the truth, even though “the model” is fantastic, they have something to prove with this new single.

there are two kinds of b&s songs: naively optimistic songs with acoustic guitars and naively optimistic songs with pianos. “jonathan david” falls into the latter category, sounding a bit like “seeing other people” in a minor key. when the vocals began, the true state of my condition was revealed: i learned that i have a very big problem: i discovered that i missed hearing stuart murdoch’s voice. i’ve churlishly commented that murdoch sings like his tongue is too big for his mouth and now, listening to stevie jackson (?), i find myself pining away for ol’ mushmouth who, to my great relief, provides harmony vocals. “i know you like her, well, i like her too, i know she likes you”: listening to the lyrics, it becomes clearly obvious why stuart isn’t on vocals: he’s not playing second fiddle to stevie fucking jackson (?). to fictional alistairs and ashleys, perhaps, but not to his own keyboardist. (of course, there’s always the possibility that jackson wrote it, but i like my reading better.)

it’s hard to say much more about it. it’s good belle & sebastian, you know what you’re in for and you know if it’s for you or not: 60s pop references, key changes, winding passages. what makes a b&s song special is that one part of the song you point to, the part that makes you say “ahhh” and comforts you like a warm spring evening. in “jonathan david,” it’s part of the chorus and the first time it appears is at fifty-nine seconds in, the chorus builds, the drums swell behind it and its set free with a key change. the word emphasized: “love.” as in “i love belle & sebastian.” “jonathan david” lifted the floodgates from my heart and once again my love runs wild like the river and, like the river, it shall never be tamed.

until their next shitty record.