Finally not an album about London from the veteran pop charmers as they pay tribute to the Home Counties where they grew up. This is a song suite about that area of the UK that spawned Depeche Mode, the Prodigy and Sutton United. Constantly finding new ways of keeping their electro-pop fresh, Saint Etienne are a true British institution. We are lucky to have them.
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Like Madness, Saint Etienne really like London. Many of their albums and songs have been about London but unlike Madness they are unafraid to look outside London for afresh challenge and have here written an album about the place they grew up - the home counties. As is the wont of ageing indie poppers at this stage in their career Saint Etienne have started writing about the past through a prism of nostalgia.
Their music remains at a place that straddles the naff and the heartfelt. They litter their music with strange little touches that are almost inexplicable - the medieval harpsichord trill that opens 'Whyteleafe' for example could easily put you off but stick with it as it contains a lovely chorus as does 'Magpie Eyes' probably one of the most straightforward tunes here. In their anxiety to sing about unusual subjects it sometimes sounds like Sarah Cracknell is shoehorning words into the music almost against her mouths will, her breathy vocals though are always easy on the ear and save tracks like 'Dive' from Eurovision-like cheesiness.
Though there's a few orchestral interludes splayed across the album musically this is well scrubbed electronic pop with 60s influences a plenty all the way from Motown to West Coast sunshine pop. They repeatedly have a knack with an earwormy chorus and at double album length the band are showing no signs of fading from view even if their music has never again quite had the majesty of their first few singles.
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