There seem to be a lot of people on this planet who can't stand Belle and Sebastian. Too twee or not too twee? That is the question. (And, come to think of it, that ol' prancer Hamlet was pretty much "twee" to the teeth.)
I really can't remember when I first heard a B&S song, though it probably would have been from 1997's If You're Feeling Sinister - perhaps "The Fox in the Snow" or "Like Dylan in the Movies." For me, they've remained pretty interesting since then. Even if their output is sometimes erratic - and sometimes repetitive - they still manage to stretch their sound enough to remain flexible and relevant in a suddenly '80s, New Wave-retro music scene.
Some of their biggest risks were taken with their many b-sides, and it's a nice thing indeed that 25 of these have been compiled as the two-disc collection Push Barman to Open Old Wounds. Not all of the songs are classics, of course. Some are barely worth the effort of remembering. But most bring at least something to the table, and a few of them rank with the best things they've done.
[I am also posting their schizophrenic, everything-AND-the-kitchen-sink suite "Your Cover's Blown."]
"I'm Waking Up to Us" [MP3] [left-click]
"String Bean Jean" [MP3] [left-click]
"Legal Man" [MP3] [left-click]
"Your Cover's Blown" [MP3] [left-click]