Saint Etienne: Home Counties
- David Pollock
- 7 June 2017
Gorgeous retro-futurism on this Home Counties concept album
Nostalgic histories of the 1990s British music scene callously tend to white out Saint Etienne. Possibly there's a combination of depressingly blokey blindness to the fact that women other than Patsy Kensit and Trainspotting's Diane existed in that decade, or residual rockist discrimination against any music which dared to embrace synthetic acid house as much as it did proper oak-smoked 1960s nostalgia. Sarah, Bob and Pete have risen to the challenge of pleasing fans from ye olden days by writing a concept album devoted to the joys of England's Home Counties.
Preceded by promo images of a leafy, detached suburban villa and the trio dressed in finest camel and cashmere, the album is punctuated by excerpts from Radio 4's The Reunion, Ken Bruce's 'PopMaster' and the sound of birdsong and choristers. In all but lyrical content (the overt 'let's find another country' from 'What Kind of World' aside), it's the Brexit concept album you never knew you wanted to hear.
The retro-futurism is perhaps needlessly over-emphasised with added harpsichord on 'Whyteleafe' and pan pipes on 'After Hebden', yet this is a record heavy with genuine fondness and nostalgia. It makes tangible the element of harking back which has driven Saint Etienne on since they first emerged.
It's there from the spine-tinglingly organic Northern Soul orchestra of 'Underneath the Apple Tree' to the masterful fusion of LCD Soundsystem cowbells, Club 18-30 disco-funk and Sarah Cracknell's ever-alluring Dusty Springfield tones on 'Dive' as well as the sinister Sigur Rós atmospherics of 'Breakneck Hill'. Were Saint Etienne's Home Counties a country of their own, we'd all want to live there.
Out on Fri 2 Jun (Heavenly Recordings).