Tales from Turnpike House [VINYL]
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Times were when the term "concept album" meant having to phone in sick to wade through some four hour long metaphysical prospectus on flying Nepalese goatherds performed by men in long capes. But not anymore. The storyboard to Saint Etienne's Tales From Turnpike House - in nature sharing many of the proletarian grievances of The Streets' A Grand Don't Come For Free and Blur's Modern Life Is Rubbish - is set in and around an Islington high rise and its charmlessly franchised local watering hole "The Hat And Fan" public house; a dysfunctional Camberwick Green environment populated by drifters, dreamers and misfits, where the circadian essentials of the neighbourhood bakery have been supplanted by the pretensions of tanning salons and where the alleyways (the sweet easy listening of "Side Streets") afford pleasant strolls for those unphased by the prospect of having one's wallet emptied and face rearranged. While film director Mike Leigh's bleak burlesques and the astringency of Luke Haines' Black Box Recorder provide honourable comparisons, Saint Etienne remain in love with wit, optimism, The Beach Boys and cut-price electronic disco. Thus, the eastern Eurovision witchery of "Lightning Strikes Twice" and the rooftop party funk-lite of "Stars Above Us" provide valuable pop hit currency, necessary checks and balances to the suffocating social fragmentation narrated on the outstanding "Teenage Winter". Even David Essex - it's official, he's cool again - pops up playing Richard Briers to Sarah Cracknell's Felicity Kendall on the rat race opt-out "Relocate". Tales From Turnpike House is just the sort of record to give concept albums a good name. --Kevin Maidment
Top Customer Reviews
Their last offering, "Finisterre", didn't even bother the Top 40 album chart. An absolute travesty when you consider the musical hot water bottles and duvets the masses are missing out on. Saint Etienne have a knack for producing albums that are as different from the last as dog food is from hairnets. But still they remain unmistakably Saint Etienne.
"Tales From Turnpike House" is no exception. After initial trepidation due to pre-release single "Side Streets" (not that I don't like the song, I just had visions of an album full of acoustic ballads) I was ecstatic to find "Tales..." was just what I was hoping for. Not that I knew what I was hoping for until I heard it. That's the beauty of Saint Etienne. You never know what to expect, so don't have any expectations. As such they never disappoint. With each new release it's like discovering a new band.
"Tales..." is much less electronic than it's predecessor, but still instantly recognisable. Being a "concept" album (usually words to turn your hair grey, but don't fret) set around a London tower block, you may be forgiven for thinking this album might be a difficult listen, at least a touch depressing?Read more ›
The first two tracks set the tone. Sun in my morning is uplifting with great harmonies. Milk bottle symphony is a story of a track with Sarah's beatiful vocals doing it justice. You cannot fail to sing to it. Lightning strikes twice is Euro sounding and is "Kylie-esque". The beautiful, Slow Down At The Castle next with it's strumming guitars. More sing a long with Good Thing and the first single Side Streets again with great harmonies is mellow and relaxing. Last Orders and Relocate are not to as high a standard but still ok. Disco sounding Stars Above us is great again sounding a bit like Kylie.Jumping stlyes again is Bird Man. An instrumental mandolin sounding affair that again is wonderful. Teenage Winter is heavier with Sarah's vocals shining through. Goodnight is the best end to an album I have had the pleasure to listen to. Beatiful, sad, harmonious, tearful and vocal.
In summary a mixture of stlyes all excecuted brilliantly. Sarah sounding great and the boys doing what they do best. Lots of great harmonies to support Sarah and all brilliantly produced. It's an absolute pleasure to have them back again. I hope they live forever!
Buy this record now. Or live to rue the day ;-)
Forget ghastly visions of prog-rock, this is a concept album a la Saints; a day in the life of a small London community from the bright dawn chorus of 'Sun In My Morning' to the beautiful lullaby 'Goodnight'.. and it's absolutely packed with top tunes. It almost seems sacreligious to pick out favourites. There's the glorious, sunny disco of 'Good Thing' and 'Stars Above Us', the slightly sinister electronica of 'Lightning Strikes Twice', the touching melancholy of 'Teenage Winter' and the unexpected glam of the brilliant 'Last Orders for Gary Stead'...not forgetting the Saints' take on The Good Life, 'Relocate', starring Sarah as Felicity Kendall (naturally) and a surprisingly good David Essex as Margo (probably). Sarah's voice is at its best, as velvety smooth and sweetly gorgeous as it's ever been, and she's backed by the band's best collection of melodies since the early 'Nineties. If there were any justice in the world this would sell about twenty-seven million copies worldwide (but of course we already know there isn't).
Go down on your knees RIGHT NOW and thank whoever you believe in for giving us Saint Etienne.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Saint Etienne are contradictory beasts. They're really keen on creating albums that 'hang together' as a coherent whole. Read morePublished on 12 Oct. 2011 by Ann O'Nymous
This is a coherent, original take on life in a block of flats somewhere in London. Having lived in a similar area myself, I related to this immediately. Read morePublished on 2 Jan. 2008 by silver midas
Like most reviewers of this band's work, on it's release Fox Base Alpha utterly blew me away. So Tough & Tiger Bay (which is breathtaking by the way, an absolute must-have)... Read morePublished on 22 Feb. 2007 by Roger Irrelevant - he's completely hatstand
I know the words 'concept album' will probably strike fear into the heart of many music fans but this is no ego-project! Read morePublished on 31 Jan. 2006 by Christopher Hunter
I bought this on the strength of reviews and early St Etienne recordings. What a mistake. This misfires badly. Read morePublished on 18 Aug. 2005
This album is gentle, wry and beautiful. Fine songs about ordinary things. I love the bit about buying a Subbuteo catalogue on EBay. Read morePublished on 12 July 2005 by RK