58 of 62 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Look, maybe it's slightly hysterical and irrational to say that Belle and Sebastian are one of the greatest creations of humankind...
But considering how much happiness they have brought me, how many times they have just stopped me in my tracks and forced me to listen to them when I must have had like six billion things to do, I think it is OK to suggest there is something magical and, like, supernatural about them.
OK, so they are certainly one of the greatest bands of the modern era, can we at least say that? If you do not physically MELT when you hear songs like "Winter Wooskie" and"Slow Graffiti" or laugh at the sheer chutzpah of "The State I am In" or "I'm Waking Up to Us" then all is lost to you, my friend, because you HAVE NO SOUL...
Officially enshrined now as the true Successor-To-The Smiths, they are heroes to the bookish, misbegotten poets, the misunderstood, the emotional and sensational lovers of Truth and Beauty. But their appeal grows even more universal by the day. Pretty much every single song on here is memorable, beautiful, shockingly melodic, and tinged with irony and hopeful mirth, the post-millenium's response to "Louder Than Bombs" if there could ever be such a thing. In a way, it's like the "chosen" people who were waiting for such a creation, gathered in their teeming subcultures of Proust novels, sensitive graphic novels, lonely web blogs about unrequited love, Smiths B-sides, obscure British Television, old campy movies, and pretentious wordy T-Shirts, and dreamed it up for themselves. But we need these people, and these people need the occasional prophet, right? Not that Belle and Sebastian would ever stand for something, well, that TANGIBLE, but Stuart Murdoch's fragile girlish vocals, the stunning catchiness of each track, the vocal harmonies, the incomprehensibly affecting and ridiculous lyrics...
There's no denying it.
Belle and Sebastian are one of the few bands who can create their own world. This double-record is a compilation of their non-album tracks previously released as a series EPs (a la The Smiths) billed as "an anthology of of the Jeepster and Matador Extended Play Singles 1997-2001." Their scottish playground melancholy, the single color-saturated record sleeves, the thoughtful passionate yearning of their ideas, the 60's throwback, the absurdly inane album titles, the press-shy multitudes of them, coming and going, more some sort of ethereal dreamy collective than "a band"--well, it's all here...their very own universe that is. Suck it up.
Arguably, these non-album songs are just as good, if not better, than many of the songs that make up their rather prolific oeuvre (six proper albums, innumerable EPs)--albums all wonderful, but perhaps only excuses to surround a handful of brilliantly executed songs with a methodology for their existence. The songs here are chronological, the first CD including all the songs released on a clumsy boxset some years ago, before the onset of the digital age. So in a way, this release is certainly long-awaited and necessary for the connoiseur.
In a way, their single EPs with all their humorous, bloated cover art, were like pearls in an oyster: little exhalations of beauty, over before they started, of seamless soul-crunching twee pop music. No more than 10-15 minutes, longer than your most memorable sexual awakening. I think of the "Legal Man" release, the title track of which was a swooning, danceable and uncharacteristic gem, followed by the joyous instrumental 'Judy is a Dick Slap" and then "Winter Wooskie"...So all these songs together in a way dilute their power, and cynics could argue their melding likens them all together, creating a bunch of songs all doing the same thing. But there is variation, and the people who these songs were meant for will appreciate it for what it is, and will definitely view this release as something essential.
From the hushed quiet genius of songs like "You Made me Forget My Dreams" and "Beautiful" to the almost-rockers like " Le Pastie De La Bourgeosie" and "Jonathan David", this is definitely a CD to make you realize the true delicate genius of a band that loves to sliver in and out of your most potent daydreams.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
For the past decade, Belle and Sebastian has been one of the greatest bands in the world, and while well known to a dedicated core of fans, they remain alarmingly unknown to the populace as a whole. Knowing about Belle and Sebastian is one of those musical badges that marks you as belonging to the more discerning of musical fans and can be used in movies and television as a quick way of validating someone as being especially savvy about great music. For instance, in an episode of THE GILMORE GIRLS, Rory's best friend Lane, who is a music junkie despite more or less being imprisoned in her house by her overbearing Korean Seventh Day Adventist mother, yells from her window asking Rory to pick up for her the latest Belle and Sebastian album. Though we've had numerous hints before that Lane really knows her music, this stands as further proof.
Many music consumers possess an album-only mentality. EPs are considered too short, too inconsequential, too, well, odd, to be desirable. With most bands, this is probably a valid attitude, since many use EPs to hold leftover numbers from album sessions (for instance, although Sam Beam is one of my favorite performers, Iron and Wine's THE SEA AND THE RHYTHM merely collects cuts left off THE CREEK DRANK THE CRADLE, though his subsequent EPs are gems) or as a place to collect what in an earlier period would have been B-sides. Not so with Belle and Sebastian. The songs on their EPs are not merely good, but frequently among the very best songs that they ever wrote. Some of the songs were later rerecorded for albums, but even factoring that in the quality of these songs is absolutely amazing. One could even ask the question: Is Belle and Sebastian the premiere EP band in rock history? The evidence here suggests that they are indeed. PUSH BARMAN TO OPEN OLD WOUNDS collects all of the EPs that they have released from 1997's DOG ON WHEELS to 2004's BOOKS. So far from being of a lower quality than their album work, the EPs have probably been more consistently excellent. The songs are so good that if someone asked me what single album by Belle and Sebastian they should get, if they could only get one, I would recommend this one. IF YOU'RE FEELING SINISTER is widely regarded as the band's finest album, but this collection is, I believe even better. At the very least, it contains more outstanding songs.
This collection also serves as further confirmation of the genius of Stuart Murdoch, the band's songwriter/guitarist/singer. Murdoch has relentlessly pushed the idea that Belle and Sebastian is a genuine group and has been hesitant to take upon himself the mantle of resident superstar. But the fact is that what drives Belle and Sebastian is the plethora of marvelously melodic songs. Murdoch joins the ranks of the great melodists in the history of rock. This is not hyperbole. Murdoch has written literally dozens of songs with melodies that can only be described as irresistibly beautifully. He is also a fine lyricist, but the melodies are what one thinks of with a great B&S song. So, if Belle and Sebastian is a great band-and it is-most of the credit has to go to Stuart Murdoch. Without Murdoch, this is a band no one would ever have heard of. He is as central to the success of the band as Billy Corgan in Smashing Pumpkins or Lou Reed in Velvet Underground or Paul Westerberg in the Replacements.
Newcomers to the band are going to be amazed by the quality of the songs. The songs are arranged chronologically, but the great songs kick in almost immediately. "Dog on Wheels" is a strong song to open the album, but the second is the glorious "The State I Am In," one of their great early songs, instantly shows what a superb writer Murdoch is, how strong his melodies are, and how funny his lyrics can be ("I gave myself to God/There was a pregnant pause before he said `OK'). This gives way to the irresistible "String Bean Jean." All the way through the 25 songs on the two discs we get a relentless barrage of great songs. "Lazy Line Painter Jane" with its rollicking organ, the wonderful "A Century of Fakers" (which shares the same intro as "A Century of Elvis" but not the same lyrics), the wistful "Beautiful," and so on through "Put the Book Back on the Shelf" and "This is Just a Modern Rock Song" and "Jonathan David" and "I'm Waking Up to Us" and "I Love My Car." These guys are relentless! There are greatest hits albums by very good bands with fewer great songs than this.
This album is, in short, a must-own album. It represents some of the finest work by one of the greatest bands in the world. If you have their albums but are not familiar with their EPs, this will delight you beyond measure. If you don't know the band at all and are looking for a great entry place, you won't find a better place than here. For a host of reasons, this is an album you absolutely must own.
Now if I can only find a ticket to their sold out show here in Chicago next month . . .