Belle & Sebastian 

Push Barman to Open Old Wounds (Matador)

It appears that venerable indie label Matador is more interested in compiling and releasing records by their trusty steeds than spending the time to mold their young fillies. Compilations and reissues from Pavement, Yo La Tengo and Mogwai have dominated the label's release schedule of late, and this two-disc comp from the Scottish pop phenoms is no different: seven EPs from 1997 through 2001, collecting some of the group's best bits but, sadly, offering no new or unreleased tracks. Belle & Sebastian have always used (and continue to use) their EPs to showcase pure pop gems (the stunning "Jonathan David") and left-field excursions (the Stylophone-heavy instrumental "Judy Is a Dick Slap").

Completists will rejoice to know that Push Barman to Open Old Wounds contains the four songs from This Is Just a Modern Rock Song, a U.K.-only EP from 1998 (one that this writer had trouble locating even in the damn U.K., only to find it for $4.99 at his favorite St. Louis record store). Squeezing seven autonomous releases on two discs results in some confusing transitions, and the devout fans will still clamor for the original pressings, but this collection achieves its purpose. Put simply, Belle & Sebastian have been responsible for many of the brightest moments in smart pop music over the last decade, and many of those moments can be found here.

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