Belle and Sebastian: Still Irritating, Still Really Good 

Pust Barman to Open Old Wounds
May 14

Even with all their noteworthy successes over the past decade, Belle and Sebastian have always had an oddly polarizing effect on would-be listeners. Stuart Murdoch and his cohorts have long displayed a keen ear for simple upbeat melodies, bringing them to life not with the happy-go-lucky lyrics you’d expect, given the tone of the music itself, but with deceivingly sad tales of down-on-their luck lovers and awkward outsiders. What more could an indie-rock kid ask for?

A lot, it would seem. Evidently there are people out there who are turned off by the Scottish band’s cutesy tendencies. Their freakish attention to detail concerning even the most seemingly mundane pop songs, their refusal to play along with the music press, granting almost no interviews — all these things are somewhat hard to deal with, because when it comes down to it, we have to face the facts: these fuckers have far better taste than we do.

And nowhere is this clearer than on their new collection, Push the Barman to Open Old Wounds. The two-disc set collects, for the first time, the stellar series of EPs released on the band’s own Jeepster label. Following in the tradition of great 60s and 80s bands before them, they’ve traditionally focused as much on their singles and EPs as they did on their full-lengths, provoking many of their diehard fans to chalk these loose ends up as some of the band’s best work.

For these rabid followers, Push the Barman is essential, if only because of the convenience of having all these recordings in one place. For newcomers, it’s essential because it presents the band in a setting where you can see exactly how they’ve grown — from the Velvet Underground- and Felt-inspired rock of their early days to the more elaborate, almost Beach Boys-like pop songs they’ve been tackling for the past few years. Looking at the vast array of styles they’ve toyed with without losing the qualities that make them so easily identifiable, it’s hard to think of another band that’s been as consistently brilliant over the years.


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