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Return of the real pop heroes
on 21 May 2012
Its been seven long years since Saint Etienne last graced us with a brand spanking new studio album; it began to look as if 2005's Tales From Turnpike House might prove to be their swansong - but they're back at last, and they've put their long hiatus to good use by providing us with a 24 karat pop nugget.
The band have always come up with stunning singles, but their albums could be a little patchy at times - experiments that just didn't quite work or melodies that didn't quite fulfill their potential. The last album was one of their most consistently strong to date, and this new release follows in the same vein. There are highs of course: gorgeous bittersweet opener Over The Border and uplifting pop rushes Tonight and DJ for instance. However there are no tracks where I felt my finger creeping towards the skip button on repeated listenings. The mood is mainly upbeat, albeit with touches of nostalgic regret, and the sound is mostly Saint Etienne's patented blend of effervescent pop influences from the Sixties to the Noughties, although there's a moving folk ballad, I Threw It All Away, towards the end - and there's more than enough variety in the melodies to prevent any suggestion of repetition.
The theme of the album is music - the effect our favourite music has upon us, the memories it evokes, the emotions it stirs...and the question of what role music plays in our lives as we get older - can it still stir and excite us as it once did? I think I can safely say, as long as Saint Etienne keep making great records like this, the answer is definitely yes.