Push Barman to Open Old Wounds
Join the club! That appears to be the message behind this anthology of Belle & Sebastian's early singles. As their anorak-clad fans have long known, some of the Scottish indie-pop group's best songs appeared on the seven EPs compiled here -- from early highlights such as "Lazy Line Painter Jane" and "Dog on Wheels" to later, farther-reaching tunes like the effervescent shimmy "Legal Man" and the Zombies-esque "Jonathan David." Plus, it's all non-album material, and the two-disc format makes for convenient listening, even for fans who have all the individual discs (the booklet also contains lyrics and original cover art, so really, all you're missing is a lot of extra plastic). While every track on the first disc is essential indie listening, the second disc, in particular, shows the band pushing themselves in new directions, from the garage-pop instrumental "Judy Is a Dick Slap," suggestive of B&S's soundtrack work for Storytelling, to the twangy, strings-laden "Take Your Carriage Clock and Shove It." Moreover, some of Stuart Murdoch's best couplets are contained within these laser-driven grooves, e.g., "So I gave myself to God / There was a pregnant pause before he said, Okay" ("The State I Am In") and "We're four boys in our corduroys / We're not terrific but we're competent" ("This Is Just a Modern Rock Song"). Not since Morrissey's golden days has a pop band captured the anxiety of outcast youth with such well-versed aplomb.