BELLE AND SEBASTIAN: THE THIRD EYE CENTRE (2004-2010/2013)
1) I'm A Cuckoo (Avalanches remix); 2) Suicide Girl; 3) Love On The March; 4) Last Trip; 5) Your Secrets; 6) Your Cover's Blown (Miaoux Miaoux remix); 7) I Took A Long Hard Look; 8) Heaven In The Afternoon; 9) Long Black Scarf; 10) The Eighth Station Of The Cross Kebab House; 11) I Didn't See It Coming (Richard X mix); 12) (I Believe In) Travelin' Light; 13) Stop, Look And Listen; 14) Passion Fruit; 15) Desperation Made A Fool Of Me; 16) Blue Eyes Of A Millionaire; 17) Mr. Richard; 18) Meat And Potatoes; 19) The Life Pursuit.
Much to the fans' delight, Murdoch is quite compulsive-obsessive about his legacy. Less than a decade after Push Barman liberated them from the necessity of hunting for old, cobweb-covered EPs, The Third Eye Centre accurately dredges up most of the leftovers from the band's «upbeat pop» decade — B-sides, occasional remixes, and the EP Books from 2004. Obstinate observers did notice that the latter EP was represented only partially, and that several other rarities (mostly covers and additional remixes) were not present, either, but these are particularities, and Murdoch and Co. had his reasons. Like Barman, this album was clearly made to be listened to for enjoyment purposes, not just as a historical document. But is it enjoyable?
Well, no more and no less than the «average» B&S record. Actually, maybe just a little less, because most of the remixes, curious as they are, have more to do with the tastes and habits of the mixers than with B&S. You want a bona fide techno mix of ʽI Didn't See It Comingʼ? You got it, but you might just as well enjoy the techno-Vivaldi of Vanessa Mae. The Avalanches emerge from their long-term sleep to offer their own take on ʽI'm A Cuckooʼ, replete with flutes, accordeons, and African tribal dancing: very much what we'd expect from the Avalanches and their passion for collage, but whether this collage makes any sense is debatable. ʽYour Cover's Blownʼ, from The Books EP, is also given here in an oddly sown electro-pop coat that makes all the «modernization» of the Belle & Sebastian sound on Write About Love microscopically unnoticeable in comparison. But do they really need all those spaceship noises?
Of the «proper» songs, none turn out to be revelations, which is a little sad, because I did hope for at least a few monster pop hooks of ʽThe Blues Are Still Blueʼ caliber; but these are B-sides, after all, carefully crafted and hardworkingly produced, just not inspired enough, or else they'd been A-sides, I guess. ʽTravellin' Lightʼ, for instance, was cut from Dear Catastrophe Waitress — maybe because they thought it was too light: pretty, folksy, cloudy, charming, but a little too smooth in its flow to capture the required attention. ʽStop, Look And Listenʼ is a speedy country-rocker with echoes of Ray Davies and Gram Parsons — nice, but not exactly stirring up any hitherto unknown emotions.
There is a fair share of humorous oddities on the album as well, such as ʽMeat And Potatoesʼ, a generic quasi-doo-wop song with S&M-oriented lyrics, or ʽMr. Richardʼ, a lyrical tribute to Keith Richard in the form of a rock'n'roll arrangement of a Jamaican folk melody (I think). Yes, these guys do have a sense of musical humor, and it is understandable that they prefer their B-sides to be its primary carrier. ʽThe Eighth Station Of The Cross Kebab Houseʼ is also an oddity, but this time, somewhat darker in tone — a brief account of love on the occupied territories, based on the band's trip to the Holy Land, but, for some reason, set to a ska melody.
Overall, this is another essential compilation for the fans, but if you were not head over heels in love with Barman, Third Eye Centre will be even more of a disappointment — particularly compared to the flash and dazzle of the two major LPs that cover its decade (not to mention all the Write About Love outtakes, which couldn't be too good by definition). Still, in case you get this wrong, I give it a thumbs up, because, other than the remixes, I enjoyed every minute of it. A-sides or B-sides, hooks or no hooks, who cares, as long as the band goes on loving their precious instruments with that much love, it is impossible to condemn their recordings. However, they do need to stay as far away from any sorts of electronics as possible.
Check "The Third Eye Centre" (CD) on Amazon
Check "The Third Eye Centre" (MP3) on Amazon