Originally released in 1994, Tiger Bay
was Saint Etienne's third long player and their second Top 10 album. It took the group into a new place by mixing traditional folk melodies with modern electronica. They worked with Underworld, Shara Nelson, Stephen Duffy, arranger David Whitaker, and Birmingham neo-dubsters Original Rockers to create a windblown but lush record, echoing its oil painting cover. This deluxe edition album has been remastered by the band and expanded to two discs. The second disc contains seven previously unheard bonus tracks including an abandoned sequel to "Mario's Cafe" called "Black Horse Latitudes" (set in the evening, in a Tufnell Park pub), and "Wedding Of Stacy Dorning" which looked forward to the sunshine pop of 1998's "Good Humour". The deluxe edition also includes an expanded booklet featuring extensive sleevenotes from the band's original PR Robin Turner.
There was a time in the mid-90s when it seemed that the pop world was going to be devoured by those people who made their living out of writing about it. Suddenly bands like the High Llamas were making pithy pastiches of their favourite records, all helmed by writers who not only knew how to make these records but how to contextualise them as well. Also in on this post modern trip was Saint Etienne, the brainchild of Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs.
Initially cooler as a concept than as an actual audio experience, Saint Etienne made a virtue of combining their (rather mundane) post-Acid House beats with suitably knowing snatches of film dialogue, German motorik iciness and the pristine voice of Sarah Cracknell. Their first two albums (Foxbase Alpha and So Tough) were gratefully lapped up by their fans but failed to really nail the grandeur of their ambitions. Tiger Bay was a different beast entirely.
Here the band managed to blend in a far more adventurous palette of musical colours. Orchestral folk music enters the picture (on "Former Lover"and "Marble Lions") and there's even a traditional song in the form of "Western Wind". Even the Kraftwerk-like "Like A Motorway" manages to slip in a distinctly pastoral air. Of course, none of this would have really worked in the context of their faux-sixties disco schtick, were it not for the fact that by now the band seemed to be able to churn out hook after hook.
Pointlessly reissued with extra tracks and a different running order, Tiger Bay suffered from a distinct lack of love from both label and public. It deserved far better as, in its original form, it belongs to that rare breed of 'perfect' albums. --Chris Jones
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