Though The Primitives have hardly aged in popular consciousness with much recognition at all, their 1988 smash “Crash” is instantly recognizable to the ears, just maybe not by name. Strangely, to the general music listening public, the tune is probably more well known than anything by Belle & Sebastian, yet Belle & Sebastian are obviously the winners with regards to longevity, enjoying their third decade of success and curating their second installment in the famed Late Night Tales compilation series. As the only previously unreleased song in the set, a cover of “Crash” dripped with potential on paper. Unfortunately, the song is only really enjoyable in theory.
Belle & Sebastian make the ill-advised decision to take what is normally an exuberant song and slow it down to half-speed while trying to maintain the irreverent lightheartedness of the original. Stripping the life out of the song, even the “na na na” chorus can’t save the tune, which plods along more like a funeral march than an homage to a song from the band’s youth. What is found in this recording is something that has sadly become all too normal in Belle & Sebastian releases, where the band sounds distant from the material, more focused on style over substance. Where their early releases could provide as much immediate fun as they could provide emotional engagement, that latter aspect seems to be all but stripped from Belle & Sebastian’s work. “Crash” is almost baffling in how it takes such a pleasant song and makes in cringe-worthy. Surely the rest of their upcoming compilation will find more to enjoy that this song, but this is a cover that should have been left on the cutting room floor.