Monday, December 26, 2005

Albums Of The Year: Number 6



More people think they have a handle on what it is that Saint Etienne do than actually could spell it out. Once they were almost dismissed as kitsch well before the ironists picked up on the term and held it aloft as their banner, by which time they'd serenely moved through house, glam futurism, widescreen pop, every major musical movement to have come out of Detroit before this century and even faceless Italian rave (as Cola Boy). Oh, and then they went all orchestral tropicalia and easy listening Krautrock. A cheery concept album about inner city life was always the inevitable step forwards. The trick messrs Stanley, Wiggs and Cracknell have pulled off is to avoid the twin traps of patronisation and overglamorisation. This is Saint Etienne. Neither would ever be on the agenda.

The glory of Tales From Turnpike House is that despite being indebted in parts to French chanson, casual Eurohouse that ought to make the entire output of AATW Records redundant at a stroke, harmonies from around Brian Wilson's sandpit and the new Scandinavian electro scenesters, it remains resolutely British. Londonist, in fact, packed out with metropolitain melodrama, situated not in the Notting Hill penthouse fame brings or down among the deadbeat men spilling out of the pub but in the decaying pre-fab flats and expanses of East London wasteland their two recent films have glorified. You know, where actual people with real lives live. From Sun In My Morning to Goodnight, titles which kind of spoil the story arc timeline, this is a less electronically inclined work, although Brian 'Xenomania' Higgins pops by with his bag full of spotwelded computerised hooks, using acoustic guitars and glacial atmospheres to create rounded characters and situations, using Pete and Bob's journalistic experience to document fictional lives being led in a real sense. They've gone and wrongfooted us all again after all, and we're glad.

LISTEN IN: Milk Bottle Symphony
EXTRA FEATURE: As mentioned, Bob and Pete have been making films of late

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