Eleven years after its first installment, the Late Night Tales concept still manages to intrigue. A journey into the musical mindset of the alternative/electronic scene’s most acclaimed artists, the glorified mix-tape series has revealed that 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love” is a Flaming Lips favourite, that Arctic Monkeys’ drummer Matt Helders is a big fan of 90s Italo house and that Snow Patrol enjoy the occasional slice of early 90s jazz-rap. Now, for the series’ 30th release, indie-disco trio Friendly Fires become the latest act to celebrate their “guilty pleasures” as well as the music that inspired them.
As you’d expect, there are a few curveballs. 80s Dutch pop vocalist Renee’s Blondie-esque “Change Your Style” might just be one of the most random and obscure choices ever to appear on a Late Night Tales compilation. While it seems safe to say that this is the only occasion where Olivia Newton-John’s little-known cover of Elton John’s “Love Song” and “Over There, It’s Raining,” a mournful piano-led instrumental from German neo-classical composer Nils Frahm, would sit side by side.
But apart from the ‘sticks out like a sore thumb’ leftfield inclusions, the biggest surprise is Friendly Fires’ fondness for the late 80s/early 90s shoegaze movement, with tracks from one of its biggest exponents, Cocteau Twins (“Cherry Coloured Funk”), and one of its current revivalists, Melody’s Echo Chamber (“Endless Shore”) nestling alongside a long-lost classic from Slowdive (“Shine”). The New Age post-rock of Sonna’s “One Most Memorable” and the eerie acoustic folk-pop of Grouper’s “Invisible” continue the unexpected foray into melancholic lo-fi territory.
If all this sounds a little too depressing from a band renowned for their effervescent synth-pop, then the first half of Late Night Tales is much more in keeping with their joyful persona. Grammy winner Joe Simon’s “Love Vibration,” Space’s early French house anthem, “Carry On, Turn Me On” and porn star-turned-singer Dennis Parker’s “Fly Like An Eagle” prove Ed, Jack and Edd know their 70s sexually-charged disco funk. The seductive Balearic chillout of Junior Boys’ “Under The Sun,” the shimmering instrumental trip-hop of Bibio’s “Don’t Summarise My Summer Eyes” and the gorgeously soulful post-garage of SBTRKT’s “Hold On” show they still have the finger on the pulse of today’s dance scene.
Meanwhile, the required appearance by the compilers themselves sees Friendly Fires faithfully tackle the deliberately esoteric Moroder-esque electro of Eberhard Schoener’s “Why Don’t You Answer,” and Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch turns up to narrate the tale of a house party on the obligatory spoken word closer, “Flat Of Angles Pt.1.”
Friendly Fires might not have been the most obvious act to helm Late Night Tales’ 30th collection, but with a track-list which traces the sound of their past, reflects on their present and hints at their future musical direction, it’s one of the most seamless and enjoyable releases in the series’ history.