Quick Review (LP): Push Barman to Open Old Wounds by Belle & Sebastian

Belle & Sebastian
Push Barman to Open Old Wounds
Jeepster; 2005

My Rating: A (88/100)

Best Tracks: "Dog On Wheels", "Belle & Sebastian", "Lazy Line Painter Jane", "This Is Just A Modern Rock Song", "I Know Where The Summer Goes"

"When I was a boy I was confounded by you/Now I’m still a boy I am indebted to you…"

NOTES

  • Love "Dog On Wheels." It has the quality of a lost Sinister track.
  • Jeez, these guys recorded "The State I Am In" a lot. BBC session, debut LP, and now this!
  • "String Bean Jean" seems like Belle & Sebastian’s ode to their archetypal fan.
  • I do love it when bands write songs after their own band name. And this band’s eponymous song is pretty great.
  • Apparently that’s Monica Queen on "Lazy Line Painter Jane." Love her voice. She sounds like a British Maria McKee. It’s a brilliant tune, one of their best.
  • I’m not usually a fan of spoken word, but between the lovely background music and the barely audible Scottish brogue of the narrator, "A Century of Elvis" is pretty enjoyable.
  • And I’ve never noticed until now that "A Century of Fakers" and "A Century of Elvis" are the same music.
  • "This Is Just A Modern Rock Song" & "I Know Where The Summer Goes" are both gloriously gorgeous. Slow, considered, and beautiful, it’s B&S at their most epic.
  • Even the more understated tunes have a brilliant magic to them. "The Gate" is one of Isobel’s best performances.
  • Apparently, the "Legal Man" single was one of their biggest hits UK side, but I don’t get it. Those 3 tracks are probably the worst here. Too sleek or something.
  • Love those strings on "Take Your Carriage Clock and Shove It." That’s some old school B&S.
  • "The Loneliness of a Middle-Distance Runner" is also a winner.
  • Here’s the deal: the early EPs are great. The later stuff runs the gamut from good to forgettable. Even so, this is an essential collection. Although If You’re Feeling Sinister is their best album (a true classic), this might be the best starting point. You’ll be hard pressed to find a collection of more unbearably lovely tunes.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Songs (4.5/5)

Quick Review (LP): The Boy With The Arab Strap by Belle & Sebastian

Belle & Sebastian
The Boy With The Arab Strap
Jeepster; 1998

My Rating: A- (81/100)

Best Tracks: "It Could Have Been A Brilliant Career", "Sleep The Clock Around", "Ease Your Feet Into The Sea", "Chickfactor", "The Boy With The Arab Strap"

Excruciatingly pleasant rainy day book-core.

NOTES

  • It’s If You’re Feeling Sinister‘s demure kid sister.
  • "Is It Wicked Not To Care?" is a pretty great moment. Gotta love the xylophone + guitar bridge.
  • I think of this record as 12 variations on The Beatles’ "I’m Only Sleeping."
  • This is one of the most "democratic" records since Music From Big Pink (Deja Vu?/Rumours?).
  • Drags a bit in the middle. "Seymour Stein", "A Spaceboy Dream", and "Dirty Dream Number Two" all have their place, but they aren’t particularly strong back-to-back.
  • And then it launches into "The Boy With The Arab Strap", which may be the defining B&S song (at least the 90’s B&S). Excellent.
  • Is that a recorder solo?
  • "Chickfactor" is a nice change of pace.
  • "The Simple Things" adds some vigor to the mix.
  • "Rollercoaster Ride" is really pleasant, a last little stroll through dreamworld before you have to wake up again to reality.
  • Overall, this one is a would-be classic, but it’s a bit under-grand. Good melodies abound, but it’s a bit sleep-inducing and, at times, formulaic. That being said, I’d rank this as perhaps their second or third best offering, and one of the best albums I can think of for an overcast and lazy Saturday morning.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (5/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Concept (4.5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Songs (4.5/5)

Quick Review (LP): If You’re Feeling Sinister by Belle & Sebastian

Belle & Sebastian
If You’re Feeling Sinister
Jeepster; 1996

My Rating: A+ (100/100)

Best Tracks: “The Stars of Track and Field”, “Seeing Other People”, “Me and the Major”, “If You’re Feeling Sinister”, “Mayfly”

Pathetic and delicate. Breathtaking, gorgeous, and grand.

NOTES:
– What was I listening to when I first heard this record in 1996? Oh, some Fugazi, some Snapcase, a lot of local hardcore bands with hoarse vocals and dropped-D “chugga chugga” guitars. As a general rule, it had to be distorted, ugly, muscular, and angry. Enter If You’re Feeling Sinister.
– The thing is, the songs here are INCREDIBLE. I mean, every time I hear “The Stars of Track and Field”, I envision these guys filling a stadium with the sounds of trumpets and twinkling pianos.
– That opening piano line on “Seeing Other People” is one of the greatest things ever. It’s got that Charlie Brown sense to it, and that’s about the right starting point for Belle and Sebastian.
I remember watching the cartoon when I was a kid. I’d love to see it again.
– The other thing: this is a great ROCK record. In contrast to their other early albums, this one sounds REALLY powerful. I mean, listen to “Me and the Major” on full blast. It sounds like it would have been at home on The Bends.
– “We’re the younger generation/We grew up fast/All the others did drugs/They’re taking it out on us!”
– The instrumentation is brilliant throughout, right up to the trumpet and recorder fest that ends the album on “Judy and the Dream of Horses.”
– Apparently Murdoch thinks this is his best collection of songs, but doesn’t think they are recorded very well. Perhaps, but I think that lends the record a certain edginess that their other early LPs didn’t have. This sounds pretty punk.
I agree with AMG that logically reducing this album to the perfect blend of The Smiths and Simon & Garfunkel doesn’t really do the album justice, but it’s probably the most accurate short description of this record that I can think of. Oh yeah, and this: “beautifully out of time.”
– Or maybe it’s this: If You’re Feeling Sinister re-defined indie rock.

ATTRIBUTES:
Cohesion (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Songs (5/5)

My review of Tigermilk