Thursday, 3 December 2009

St Etienne - So Tough

In a fit of housekeeping tidiness some time back, I transferred all my LP/CD details into an Access Database. From there it was relatively easy to do a bit of nerdy analysis on my music collection. One of the facts that this threw up was that whilst I own a large number of albums by favourite artists, I generally own two albums per artist overall. On further investigation it appears that what happens is this: I buy an album that I like which prompts me to buy the follow up which disappoints and my interest in the artist stops. Repeat ad lib.

St Etienne was one of those bands that I had a brief flirtation with in the mid-1990s and is a classic case. Taking their name from a French football team, they were comprised smart-ass journalist/musicians, Pete Wiggs and Bob Stanley and fronted by sexy girl-next-door singer, Sarah Cracknell and they made slightly knowing pastiches of various musical genres from the 1960s and patched them up with 1990s indie-dance glue. In the right context they were eminently listenable but could become a little too clever if left to their own devices for too long.

I missed their debut, ‘Foxbase Alfa’ but picked up on them when ‘So Tough’ was released in 1993. I loved ‘So Tough’ with its winning melodies and clever film soundtrack links between them and this prompted the purchase of next up ‘Tiger Bay’ but this didn’t appeal half so much. Thus endeth my association. Interestingly, I now read that ‘Tiger Bay’ seems to be most fans’ choice as their best effort so I played it again just to check but there is nothing on it that captures my imagination like the beautifully brittle ‘Hobart Paving’ or the frothy ‘You’re in a Bad Way’ from ‘So Tough’. Interestingly, ‘Tiger Bay’ seems to have been messed about with dreadfully, re-released with a new cover, new song order and additional tracks added. Hmm...

I think I’ll stick with ‘So Tough’ but there is one thing that bugs me about it and it is that I have been unable to find out where the film links between songs are lifted from. One, I know, is definitely Tom Courtenay from ‘Billy Liar’ because I’ve seen the film and another sounds like James Robertson Justice, probably from one of the ‘Doctor’ films but as to the rest – I have no idea. Does anyone know what they are or can direct me to a point of information? The usual sources don’t seem to be able to help.

For more commentary on musical matters, see my book 'Memoirs of a music Obsessive'.

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