BELLE & SEBASTIAN – The Third Eye Centre

Album: The Third Eye Centre

Artist: Belle & Sebastian

Label: Matador

Release Date: August 27, 2013

Belle and Sebastian

www.matadorrecords.com

BY MARK JENKINS

At their best, Belle & Sebastian weave a formidable number of styles into their schoolboyish (and -girlish) pop-rock. But the Glasgow septet also produces material that less successfully assimilates its disparate influences. That stuff often ends up on B-sides and bonus tracks, later to be collected on compilations like The Third Eye Centre. Such catch-up albums are only for completists and scholars (most of whom probably have all the tracks already).

That’s not to say the band’s latest compilation, the successor to 2005’s Push Barman To Open Old Wounds, is unlistenable. The 19-song compendium is impeccably crafted and generally likable. But it’s erratic in quality, sequencing and successfulness of musical experimentation. The opener is unfortunately apt: an Avalanches’ remix of “I’m a Cuckoo,” a charming ditty that gains nothing from being blended with non-Euro flutes, drums and chants.

Other misfires include “Passion Fruit,” an inessential surf-rock instrumental, and “Love on the March,” an attempt at bossa nova. (The Ventures and Caetano Veloso can rest easy.) A previously unreleased disco remix of “Your Cover’s Blown” is incongruous but not unpleasant; forays into trad country (“Stop, Look and Listen”) and Latin pop (“Mr. Richard”) are clunkier.

The Stuart Murdoch-sung highlights include “Suicide Girl,” a ode to a crush who’s clearly wrong for the bookish gent, and “The Eighth Station of the Cross Kebab House,” a romantic vignette from the Israeli/Palestine border yoked to a reggae beat. Of the many Stevie Jackson numbers, the picks are the jauntily retro “Last Trip” and “(I Believe In) Travelin’ Light.” (“I’m a Cuckoo” would make the list, too, if it hadn’t been manhandled.) Sarah Martin takes the lead on “I Didn’t See It Coming,” a dance remix that doesn’t pummel the original’s sparkly appeal. It sounds like a B-side, but the kind of B-side that’s a happy discovery.

DOWNLOAD: “Suicide Girl,” “I Didn’t See It Coming”

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