You'd think that for a cover story about Belle & Sebastian, Magnet magazine would hire someone who could write. I never buy music magazines, but there I was at a newsstand, staring at Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch in a Caesar haircut and flannel tie, and I was drawn to the glossy thing like a fly toward a shit stick.

The author of the cover story is Mark Blackwell, who is a fan of Belle and Sebastian and of music-journalist clichés. He's also fond of the second person ("But you just happen to have an all-access pass..."), of that this-is-so-frickin'-hardcore tone ("the elusive and exclusive after-after-after-party"), and of hyphens (a gathering has a "low-key, have-a-beer-and-a-quick-chat manner," a Super-Stretch Ford Excursion SUV limo is "ultra-tricked-out"). In lieu of thinking, Blackwell loads his sentences with adjectives and references and stirs them all around into a kind of facile soup: The band "precociously blended the bright and shiny progressiveness of '60s folk/pop with the dark, lonely catharsis of Nick Drake and the limber artsiness of the Velvet Underground—along with choice bits of everything from Joy Division to the Archies—to craft the sublime Tigermilk." Whenever Blackwell's on his way to an idea, he stops himself, switches tracks, goes the other way. He writes that the latest album "shines with a brighter and more shimmery pop vibe, mixed with harder-driving rhythms and a touch of smoothish soul, but the LP doesn't radically depart from the band's previous offerings in any glaring way." Except, you know, the brighter and more shimmery pop vibe and the harder-driving rhythms.

Murdoch, famously hesitant to grant interviews, granted Blackwell an interview. Blackwell didn't make the most of it. Immediately after Murdoch makes a startling point about the difference between songs about people he knows and songs about people he's invented—that the latter are "slightly more trite"—Blackwell writes: "Murdoch notes that not only have the characters in his songs changed over the years, but the band's audience has changed as well." At this point, thinking readers throw their magazines out the window.

Belle and Sebastian deserve someone intelligent doing the analysis, which is what they got with Paul Whitelaw. Whitelaw's Belle and Sebastian: Just a Modern Rock Story was published last fall; no one except me noticed. You have to love a band to read 300 pages about them, and this band's histrionics do get boring. What never gets boring is Whitelaw's analysis—of the "twee" accusation; of Scots in general; of Murdoch's religious motifs; of the incongruities between lyric and tune; of literary, political, and sexual meaning. Every song gets a close reading—and, sometimes, a dressing down. I've always loved the homo references in the songs—everyone in the band is straight—but Whitelaw finds problems in "flirting with this kind of gay chic." He wonders if songwriter Murdoch is "trying a little too hard, like two 16-year-old girls snogging in a pub in an attempt to shock the clientele, who probably couldn't care less, frankly. In treating homosexuality as a kind of bohemian vice in his songs, something titillating and illicit, [Murdoch] threatens to display the kind of unintentional prejudices so common to well-meaning liberals." I'd never thought of that.