Album Reviews

Various – Colours Are Brighter

(Rough Trade) UK release date: 16 October 2006


Kids, eh? Tsk. In my day they were seen and not heard. Now it’s all emo and ASBOs and hanging round street corners shouting abuse at people. Whatever happened to the innocence of youth? God I’m getting old…

Er, anyway, Belle And Sebastian have taken it upon themselves to curate an album of children’s songs in aid of the Save The Children charity. While thousands of Kevin The Teenagers sit in their darkened bedrooms moaning about the world being against them with only their My Chemical Romance albums to comfort them, this cute collection of ditties aims to entertain their little brothers and sisters.

The likes of Snow Patrol and Franz Ferdinand abandon any notions of credibility in favour of attempting to create something joyous, without a trace of irony in sight (thankfully, five year olds don’t tend to understand it, bless ’em). On one hand it sounds like fun, but have you ever tried to entertain a five year old? Tough crowd!

On the whole, the artists here pull it off admirably. Rasputina and The Barcelona Pavilion somewhat miss the point, going for sharp beats and yelped vocals more likely to have most littl’uns either scratching their heads or running to mummy than dancing. Franz are far more successful though and, along with Snow Patrol, provide the album’s highlights.

The recipe for success appears to be a combination of silliness, simplicity and a refusal to try and be clever.The Kooks seem to find this impossible, and going a bit reggae on The King And I is about as silly as they’re willing to go. It sounds like an album cast-off, and is by far the laziest contribution to this album.

Franz’s Jackie Jackson is inspired, however: a hoe-down style riot about a lad that “likes to stuff his face” and “eat too many cakes”. It’s utterly daft, but Alex Kapranos sheds his usual wry tone and sounds like he’s loving every minute. If this is their new direction, then bring on the third album. Snow Patrol’s I Am An Astronaut is far less frantic, but just as endearing. Honestly, it’s one of the most beautiful things they’ve ever done. The child-like optimism of the lyrics makes one yearn for the days when dreams of being an astronaut seemed possible, an emotion embodied in the tinge of sadness in Gary Lightbody’s voice.

Elsewhere, Neil Hannon does his usual quirky stuff as well as ever, but is nearly outdone in the jauntiness department by Half Man Half Biscuit and the curators themselves. Not all of this record works, and listening to it all in one go is akin to eating a family size bar of chocolate; nice at first, but leaving you feeling rather queasy by the end. There’s plenty to enjoy here, though. Why should kids have all the fun?


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