Unlike the path to obsolescence that many bands from the 90s eventually take,nobody grows out of Belle and Sebastian. Some of the credit goes to the Glaswegian bands all-pervasive presence in popular culture with appearances in films such as High Fidelity and TV shows such as Gilmore Girls or How I Met Your Mother. But most of its timelessness lies in its songbook and references to popular culture. Picture Like Dylan in the movies (If Youre Feeling Sinister,1996),which is a lyrical imagery of Bob Dylan in his 67 movie Dont Look Back,or bringing back Gustave Courbets famous painting of a mangled fox in Fox in the Snow in their number of the same name. Theirs is the music of acidic realities juxtaposed with soothing shades of pastoral blues,soft rock and Simon and Garfunkel-esque antiquities.
Known for their quick succession of LPs and EPs,which they treat as seriously as a regular album, Belle and Sebastians latest,The Third Eye Centre,is a co-mpilation of B-sides and rarities from 2002 onwards. And its much like a tiny old shop full of queer oddities.
Their classic sounds come from sun-dappled soft rock,reminiscent of the good ol The Bee Gees, Cliff Richards or Simon and Garfunkel. And so we find solace in Love on the march,a warm,bluesy,The girl from Ipanema-like instant classic,and Your secrets,a happy-go-lucky hit that takes you back to Belle and Sebastian of the 90s. Even (I believe in) Travellin Light has a lot of déjà vu going,yet the dreamy vocals of Stuart Murdoch against the country-pop pace makes it rather bittersweet. On the other hand,Meat and potato is complete with haulting piano notes against Murdochs uninhibited I like my coffee black,old TV shows/My women hot and my beer ice cold,making for an unusually delightful love song.
Every successive album comes with a spillover from the past. Here,it comes in the form of remixes. Theres an Avalanche remix of their 2003 track,Im a cuckoo,in which a heavy pop-rock piece of 2003 gives way to organic notes of flutes,bongo and other sounds of the earth. Yet another is with Scottish producer Miaoux Miaoux in Your Covers Blown,which turns a 90s paraphernalia of disco lights,chorus,synth and techno sounds from the original 2003 EP Books,into a futuristic soundscape with electro beats.
Theres nothing like too much for Belle and Sebastian,and the 19-track album pretty much reinstates that. Even though the tracks can get a little too sepia-tinted for one afternoons listen, it is tinged with two-tongued jabs of innuendos and disturbances,which we interpret as wistful dark romance. And when we get to Im a cuckoos uplifting Id rather be in Tokyo… Theres something wrong with me,Im a cuckoo,we take their word for it too.