Belle and Sebastian

The Third Eye Centre

Matador

Aug 28, 2013 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


B-side collections should rarely be as good as albums. They offer wonderful glimpses of your favorite bands' development processesB-sides are the rock record equivalent of a DVD's deleted scenesshowing off ill-fitting tracks, interesting failures, and songs deemed unworthy of wider release for other various reasons. This isn't always true, though, particularly when a band's creative output grossly outpaces the rate at which they can put out LPs. 

Belle and Sebastian are one of the rare cases where your expectations need not be tempered. Stuart Murdoch and company have a habit of filling the gaps of time between full-lengths with EPs and chunk-sized singles, packing them with little gems that keep their North American fans scouring the import racks. They managed to buck the boring B-sides comp trend once already with their first mega-compilation, Push Barman to Open Old Wounds, which collected 26 stray nuggets from seven EPs/singles released between 1996 and 2001. The Third Eye Centre picks up where that collection left off, assembling the rarities from 2003's Dear Catastrophe Waitress through 2010's Belle and Sebastian Write About Love.

How much this comp will appeal to the mild Belle and Sebastian fan will likely be determined by how much they've enjoyed the band's recent era as a bigger, bombastic pop act compared to their gentler '90s approach. Some of these non-LP tracks are outstanding: "Suicide Girl" paints a character portrait as vivid as Murdoch's best, and "Your Secrets" boasts one of the songwriter's bounciest melodies. "Last Trip" features great, bluesy slide guitar and a sing-along chorus, and the ska-tinted "The Eighth Station of the Cross Kebab House" is another great showpiece for the band's broader genre experimentation. Third Eye Centre is marred by a few less-interesting inclusions and a trio of disposable remixes, but it's a worthy collection no Belle and Sebastian fan will want to skip. (www.belleandsebastian.com)

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