Fifteen years on, St Etienne are still an underestimated force, despite, or perhaps because of, their consistent chart appearances. Of course Bob Stanley, Pete Wiggs and Sarah Cracknell are not only about commercial songs, but have constantly looked forwards and backwards in their music, one minute constructing mix albums of records to be found on the jukeboxes of sixties' greasy spoons, the next collaborating with To Rococo Rot or handing over their multi-tracks to the most avant remixers of the day.
Foxbase Alpha, their highly regarded 1991 debut, set a pattern, juxtaposing eclectic samples between songs that might be poppy, wistful, surreal or kitsch. They also used the CD booklet in a different and new way, here with an essay on London by Jon Savage and some iconic photographs.
In the early days, they lacked a regular singer and on their debut single as St Etienne in 1990 (included here) they borrowed the singer Moira Lambert (from Faith Over Reason) for their transformation of Neil Young's Only Love Can Break Your Heart, a regular radio play to this day, and on its follow up, the non-album Let's Kiss And Make Up (originally by the Field Mice) enlisted Donna Savage from Dead Famous People. Once Sarah Cracknell appeared, however, they had found their perfect foil with her summery and evocative lightness of tone. She first appeared on the suitably titled single Nothing Can Stop Us Now, a minor hit in May 1991 that paved the way for this deceptively influential album a few months later, which is still such a joy to listen to