Those prolific Scots of Belle & Sebastian released a bounty of non-album tracks across several EPs between 1997 and 2001, and they're all gathered together for the first time on PUSH BARMAN TO OPEN OLD WOUNDS. What's most shocking is that the bulk of these cuts are fully as memorable as anything on the group's proper albums.
As with Belle & Sebastian's better-known material, the songs on PUSH BARMAN are a gorgeously melodic, wistful blend of '60s pop and '80s twee, contrasted brilliantly by some of the most sardonic, bitingly ironic lyrics this side of Morrissey. There are a few relative anomalies (the Joe Meek-meets-synth-pop instrumental "Judy Is a Dick Slap," the epic-length "This Is Just a Modern Rock Song"), but nearly all the tracks here are in the classic B&S mode. Leader Stuart Murdoch's wonderfully idiosyncratic lyrical outlook provides for such unusual pop moments as the retirement-party office drama of "Take Your Carriage Clock and Shove It" and the communist-femme snapshot of "Marx & Engels," all framed with an almost shockingly infectious tunefulness that marks Belle & Sebastian as true pop subversives.
Spin (p.107) - "The first disc folds the three from the LAZY LINE PAINTER JANE box into the band's finest single CD..."
Uncut (p.130) - 4 stars out of 5 - "[T]hey were composing the real bittersweet symphonies of the day....One of the strongest pop runs of the last 10 years."
Magnet (p.88) - "These are the quiet, beautiful songs that made Belle & Sebastian seem so monumental..."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.120) - 4 stars out of 5 - "Debut single 'Dog On Wheels' is just beautiful, a softly-crooned, knock-kneed lament..."