Saint Etienne for the weekend. Something to go very well with the weekend and every attempt at trying to be as grounded as possible.
Started in 1990, Saint Etienne became heavily associated with the “indie dance” genre in the early 1990s. Their typical approach was to combine sonic elements of the dance-pop that emerged in the wake of the so-called Second Summer of Love (e.g. samples and digitally synthesized sounds) with an emphasis on songwriting involving romantic and introspective themes more commonly associated with traditional British pop and rock music. Early work demonstrated the influence of ’60s soul, ’70s dub and rock as well as ’80s dance music, giving them a broad palette of sounds and a reputation for eclecticism. Years later, The Times wrote that they “deftly fused the grooviness of Swinging Sixties London with a post-acid house backbeat”. Their first two albums, Foxbase Alpha and So Tough feature sounds chiefly associated with house music, such as standard TR-909 drum patterns and Italo house piano riffs mixed with original sounds, notable by the use of found dialogue, sampled from 1960s British realist cinema.
During the early 1990s the group enjoyed extensive coverage in UK music weekly papers NME and Melody Maker and gained a reputation as purveyors of “pure pop” in the period immediately prior to the Brit-Pop explosion. So Tough reached No. 7 in the UK Albums Chart. Their most popular singles of this period were “You’re in a Bad Way” and “Join Our Club” (which reached No. 12 and No. 21 in the UK Singles Chart).
Tiger Bay (1994) represented a change of direction: the entire album was inspired by folk music, combined with modern electronica. Although the album reached No. 8 in the UK Albums Chart, the singles performed disappointingly, with “Pale Movie”, “Like a Motorway” and “Hug My Soul” reaching No. 28, No. 47 and No. 32 in the UK Singles Chart. In a 2009 interview, Bob Stanley said that in retrospect the band “got ahead of ourselves a bit” by releasing such an uncommercial album, which “definitely could have done with a couple more obvious songs”.
In 1995, they released their most successful single, “He’s on the Phone”, a reworking of Étienne Daho’s “Week-end à Rome” that they had created for a collaborative EP with Daho entitled Reserection. It reached No. 11 on the UK chart.
After years floating around various record labels, the band came back to original label Heavenly for their 2009 career retrospective, London Conversations: The Best of Saint Etienne. The album contained two singles, a reworked “Burnt Out Car” and new track, the Richard X-produced “Method of Modern Love”. The album also contained as a third “new” track, a remix by Richard X of the previously vinyl-only “This is Tomorrow”.
In May 2012, following the January release of the single “Tonight”, the band released their eighth studio album, Words and Music by Saint Etienne. Saint Etienne’s ninth studio album, Home Counties, was released on 2 June 2017, where much of the music for this festival appearance comes from.
I suggest you plug in the headphones and relax . . .or dance.
Either way, enjoy.
(Editors note: Thanks to Charlie Bidwell for the suggestion – timing is everything)