So Tough is one of 'those' albums. It's haunting, eclectic, burn-out, dark and at times just plain crazy.
The follow up to Foxbase Alpha had a lot to live up to and it just about pulls it off. Calico is dirty and rusty. Conchita Martinez is squally and frantic and Avenue is still to this day one of the most beautiful and heart wrenching songs I've ever heard. It sounds like Dusty Springfield dropping acid with the Beatles.
It's marvellous and should've been huge but just became another lost classic. Hearing it after all these years brings back some great memories.
When Saint Etienne started with the release of the deluxe editions I was a bit wary that this would be another ripoff (that is: releasing already available material with the odd extra thrown in so the diehard fans have to buy it although they already have 95%). Although I have almost everything Saint Etienne ever made (and usually this means as said before that you have a lot of tracks a few times over) I was pleasantly suprised by So Tough deluxe. There are a few unknown tracks (not released on singles etc) which make it worth the reasonable price: Sarah's infectious laugh at the end of Rainy Day Women alone is worth 10 pounds!
So: a must for those who don't already own So Tough and a nice-to-have for everyone else.
I still have mixed feelings about the deluxeproject (and the Boxette before): great that all rarities are available for all but you loose that feeling as a fan when you have found that special and extremely rare CD somewhere. What is a limited edition when a few years down the line it's a massproduct? Still, mixed feelings are the best feelings!
Yes, there's a generous serving of remastered and previously unreleased tracks, but one important omission the band haven't noted in their copious sleevenotes: the mix of You're In A Bad Way is completely different from the original. In fact, I've never heard the mix before - is it a later substitution for the original? A new mix? It certainly sounds like it, and a much later one at that. It doesn't sit as well in the context of the album as the original, and the lack of notation is a bit of a mystery. Fortunately I have London Conversations with the original remastered version, otherwise I'd be a little peeeeved. If you're expecting to hear a remastered version of the 1992 album you knew and loved, beware this is not exactly that album.