Song 244: Belle & Sebastian, “Dirty Dream Number Two” (1998)

belle-and-sebastian-the-boy-with-the-arab-strap-album-cover

Another one for the “this song got me through freshman year of college” file. When The Boy With the Arab Strap came out, I wasn’t familiar with Belle & Sebastian—which means that Arab Strap was my introduction to the band, and not their stellar debut, Tigermilk, or their subsequent masterpiece, If You’re Feeling Sinister.

I’m glad that it worked out that way, because Arab Strap is a very good record, but it’s also rather unassuming; if I had started at the beginning, my introduction would have been something of a letdown. Instead, I found it warm and inviting. Stuart Murdoch’s voice lifts the songs like helium.

Arab Strap is so subdued that “Dirty Dream Number Two,” a slight, synth-driven midtempo track, is the record’s highest-energy moment. It’s a lovely song, and, like the rest of Arab Strap, it’s simultaneously sad and funny. “Dream two,” sings Murdoch, “you couldn’t see her face but you saw everything else.” You can almost hear him widening his eyes on those last two words.

The entire song is surprising in its … well, “lewdness” isn’t the right word, but for Belle & Sebastian, whose “twee” image was cemented even in 1998, it almost fits. Between those lyrics and its sweet melody, “Dirty Dream Number Two” still catches me off guard.

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