Review : Saint Etienne - Words and Music
GuardianWords and Music is noticeably less sonically adventurous than Tales from Turnpike House's strange, sublime mix of ornate 60s MOR vocal arrangements, Xenomania productions and guest vocals from David Essex. Heading for the Fair sounds exactly like the kind of Balearic dance track Boys' Own Records put out in the early 90s, and I Threw It All Away carries a hint of baroque pop in its waltz-time and woodwind, but there's something defiant about the way most of the album is set to music roughly approximate to chart pop, Auto-Tuned vocals and all. It's as if Saint Etienne are guarding against the tendency of ardent, fortysomething music fans to cleave to a kind of combative nostalgia, the steadfast, sneering belief that your past automatically beats anyone's present, that everything was better in your youth. Instead, Words and Music frequently sounds as dizzy with the joy of pop as Saint Etienne did 20 years ago, when their single Join Our Club borrowed the Lovin' Spoonful's question: Do you believe in magic? Now, as then, their answer seems to be: of course....full text
Music OMHThereís sadness too, caught in the spooksome, reedy synth lines in 25 Years; breathing out a lament of the indomitable passage of time, changing communities, changing trends, so unrecognisable and so removed from the world of our youth. Words And Music isnít just a celebration of popular music, but a hymnal ode to a loss of innocence, an end to the passions of our childhood. Returning to Over The Border provides the crux of the recordís manifesto, made real in the wistful longing of one line: ďI used Top Of The Pops as my world atlas." And in that summation, the true epiphany of what Saint Etienne have crafted into being on this album is found....full text
RocksuckerSaint Etienne's first studio album since 2005's sublime Tales from Turnpike House is a rather confusing affair, the musical equivalent of a top chef knocking up a Big Mac and fries but leaving just enough traces of flair - a sprig of coriander here, a dash of cumin there - so as to leave you in no doubt of where it's all coming from. How exactly we feel about it may not become clear for a while, but it would be a dereliction of journalistic duty not to get in there quickly with the new album of a band we greatly admire, so here is a mishmash of early musings.
Words and Music by Saint Etienne may well have unravelled sufficiently to feature prominently amongst our very favourite albums of 2012, but for now it's an intriguing curio which only sporadically matches the high standards that Cracknell, Stanley and Pete Wiggs have repeatedly set for themselves. Still, it's quite remarkable for such a straightforward-seeming album to elicit such an exploration and inquisition of self; and if that conclusion strikes you as being unnecessarily academic, we may well have proved our own point in some roundabout way....full text
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