It’s a fun, lightweight addition to this classic band’s expansive catalogue.

The Third Eye Centre acts as a companion piece and follow-up to 2005’s two-disc Push Barman To Open Old Wounds, which collected Belle & Sebastian’s Jeepster Record EPs from 1997 to 2001. This latest compilation captures the 2003 to 2010 period, covering non-album recordings from their time on the Rough Trade label. It’s a tightly packed 19-track single disc, so a handful of rare tracks from this era don’t quite make the cut, though the biggest loss is the edited-out spontaneous burst of laughter by the Sudanese chorus at the tail-end of The Avalanches’ inspired remix of ‘I’m A Cuckoo’.

2003’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress signaled a change of sound for the band, with their fey, inward-looking bookishness making way for a more confident, extroverted streak. This second phase of the band is represented well on The Third Eye Centre, which switches the tracklisting to random and covers B-sides, bonus tracks and remixes. Two of their best compositions, ‘Your Cover’s Blown’ and ‘I Didn’t See It Coming’, get the full dancefloor treatment, breathing new life into lyrics like “The DJ’s picking up speed” and “Make me dance, I want to surrender”. B-sides of singles from The Life Pursuit and bonus tracks from their so-so last album Belle & Sebastian Write About Love make up some of the other highlights.

This happier, more playful version of the band don’t offer the same consistency that they once had, and this particular collection is dragged down by a few too many expendable Stevie Jackson compositions.

3/5 stars


The Third Eye Centre is out now through Rough Trade/Remote Control.

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