Embarrassing fact or not (I'm really not sure) - I've never really listened to much Belle and Sebastian. 'The Boy With The Arab Strap' is excellent but beyond that I draw a bit of a blank. The LateNightTales albums are generally worth a listen though and so when a copy popped through the letter box I stuck it on regardless of relatively modest excitement levels.
And I'm very glad I did because it is probably the best LateNightTales I've heard. It's far more eclectic than I would have expected and there are not just one or two but a number of tracks by artists I've not heard of that I will certainly check out more of.
Things start off relatively psychedelic with Broadcast's 'Ominous Cloud' instantly plunging us into a swirling world of slightly trippy sixties pop. It feels like being stuck between the celluloid of The Wicker Man and Performance. Nothing on this album stays as it is for long though and soon you are enveloped in Milton Nascimento & Lô Borges' Latin Jazz and things feel much warmer than you would ever have expected on such an album.
Bonnie Dobson's 'Bird of Space' is back in bonkers psychedelia territory but it is also strangely beautiful, Dobson's shrill vocals dancing around sitars and sweeping strings to create a disconcertingly epic sound. In amongst all this weirdness Gold Panda's 'Quitters Raga' fits like hand slipping into glove, highlighting Belle and Sebastian's selection skills and Gold Panda's utter brilliance.
After the Pop Group, whom are probably the sole bum-note, their avant-garde post-punk still leaving me cold, things get even more sublime. All too brief, the Stan Tracey Quartet's 'Starless and Bible Black' provides a brief one-minute stellar jazz interlude that feels like free-wheeling through space, see the Earth vanish from view and barely caring. The Lovin' Spoonful's 'Darlin' Be Home Soon' is a perfect contrast, filled with the same dull ache but wrapped up in earnest pop melodies and beautiful production. Belle & Sebastian's cover version of the Primitives 'Crash' is good, but mainly serves to highlight how brilliant a lot of the other material here is.
I could go on, but you should probably just listen to the album... There is just so much worth hearing. A dub of Pete Shelley's solo record 'Homosapien' almost steals the show but it is Remember Remember's heartbreaking 'Scottish Widows' that does. A haunting, perfect piece of music - call it new-classical, call it post-rock, I call it fantastic.
In summary then? You'd be foolish not to.