Review Summary: This compilation album is one last reminder of Belle and Sebastian's excellent and raw 'real' years- for all those disappointed with Dear Catastrophe Waitress.
The late nineties were a good time for Belle and Sebastian. They had comfortably seized a small but loyal cult, indie following in their home Glasgow and other bohemian areas such as London. Their 7-piece band had initially been the experiment of a business college's pseudo- record label, but soon Jeepster Records realised the potential that this melodic, tuneful, group had and re-released their first 'test' album, and also their next five albums to come in the fore-coming years. Belle and Sebastian's first three, albums (Tigermilk, If You're Feeling Sister and The Boy With The Arab Strap) revived a long-lost importance of instruments ranging from the cello, to the clarinet, to the cornet, to the harpsichord- instruments that had been forgotten in the latter half of the 20th century in favour of guitars and keyboards. Their first three albums proved that these instruments could actually be used in indie-pop music once again, and that the sheer array of instruments should never be forgotten. It's a wonder that the accessible music of the band never achieved any notable commercial success, although the underground obscurity of Belle and Sebastian is what helps it be so loveable.
Then, sadly, Belle and Sebastian (after releasing two more not-so-great albums on Jeepster) moved to the better-known, iconic Rough Trade Records in 2003- a move which would eradicate the raw energy and finesse of their earlier work, replacing it with bland, poppy production values which cheapened their appeal, and turned their masterful use of instruments and tunes into dull, radio-friendly music with a tacky, 'plasticky' feel to it. Belle and Sebastian seemed to have sold out...well, that is all a matter of debate. But the band definitely had lost something.
This is why the album is so refreshing and relieving to listen to. The 25 tracks on Push Barman To Open Old Wounds are all masterpieces in their own right, and come from the time where Belle and Sebastian were creating their 'real' music. Each track has contains something invigorating, be it the beautiful clarinet clarinet melodies in 'I Love My Car', or the impatient tickling of the piano keys on 'Jonathan David'. Each song has its own character, ranging from energetic and excited pieces to the more reserved and reflective ones with insightful lyrics from the band's frontman Stuart Murdoch. 'Legal Man' sounds like it's from the 60s, with choral singing and a distant chord progression from a guitar, whereas 'Beautiful' offers a subtle, relaxing acoustic introduction with soothing lyrics and then, in the middle, a trumpet solo that will leave you rewinding the track back just to hear those final brass notes.
The wonderful library of musical genius (I didn't hesitate to say the g-word!) inherent in this album is hard to ignore, and at 25 tracks, almost and hour's worth of material, this album will keep you busy with B&S's unique tunes and solos, and should occupy your musical zone for at least a few months.
While not technically a studio album, Push Barman To Open Old Wounds is one of Belle and Sebastian's best, and is certainly a pleasant way to bid farewell to the band's old style. If you are a devout listener to their early recordings, then you should probably not waste time with their new collaboration with Norah Jones (shudder) and listen to this album. And if you listen to no more newer work after this, then you will have something to truly remember Belle and Sebastian by.
String Bean Jean
A Century Of Fakers
Belle And Sebastian
Marx And Engels
The Loneliness Of A Middle Distance Runner
Take Your Carriage Clock And Shove It
Also I'm new to these reviews so criticism please!