According to Belle and Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch, the idea for his side project God Help The Girl started in 2004. “I was out for a run and I gotthis tune in my head and it occurred to me that it wasn’t a Belle & Sebastian song,” he explains on his website.
“I could hear female voices and strings, I could hear the whole thing, but I just couldn’t envisage myself singing it with the group,” he adds.
The resulting album is a soundtrack for a musical film by Murdoch called God Help The Girl, that is not due to start filming until next year. This tells the tale of a young woman called Eve, her mental health problems and the characters she meets.
While the timing of the album and film release may be skewed, the album itself is far from confused. It is a carefully crafted piece of work, layered with exquisite orchestral arrangements and showcasing a range of vocal talents with more than a nod to the music of the Mamas and Papas.
Among those appearing are the Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon, Asya from Seattle band Smoosh and newcomer Catherine Ireton (pictured), who takes the bulk of vocal duties as the voice of Eve.
Highlights include ‘Pretty Eve in the Tub’, a duet between Ireton and Murdoch, who pops up like the crown prince of chamber pop he is. New, softer versions of Belle and Sebastian tracks ‘Act of the Apostle’ and ‘Funny Little Frog’ are also well worked.
God Help The Girl really hits its stride at the eighth track, ‘Musician Please Take Heed’. This is the first of a number of ambitious sixties girl group style arrangements. Standout tracks that follow include ‘Perfection as a Hipster’ a duet between Hannon and Ireton and ‘Come Monday Night’, the first single off the album. Also worth mentioning is the 1980s sounding ‘I Just Want Your Jeans,’ sung by Asya.
God Help The Girl is a satisfying listen, offering many sounds and moods that haven’t been recorded since the days of Mama Cass, and something genuinely interesting musically. Fans of Belle and Sebastian, in particularly those that that enjoyed the band’s under-rated soundtrack to Storytelling, will find a lot to like here. And in Ireton, Murdoch has uncovered a star in the making.
by Joe Lepper, 2009