CD of the… oh, never mind: Tales from Turnpike House by Saint Etienne

turnpikehouse.jpgBack in the early 1990s I was a huge fan of Saint Etienne. Their first two albums Foxbase Alpha and So Tough showed up regularly in my car cassette player; songs like “You’re in a bad way” and “Kiss and make up” had an infectious appeal. (And of course there was their wonderful version of Neil Young’s “Only love can break your heart”.) There were four main influences – Style Council’s jazzy cool pop, Brian Wilson’s songwriting, 1960’s Brit-girl pop such as that of Sandy Shaw and Cilla Black, and South London – woven together by Wiggs’ effortless electronica and Sarah Cracknell’s girl-next-door voice. (Their work remixed really well – check out Casino Classics, with remixes by all the big names of the late 90s.)

I bought almost all of their work (I was a completist – remember?), including the highs (He’s on the phone) and the lows (Good Humor), until a few years ago when I thought that they’d lost their way. Now comes Tales from Turnpike House, a lovely concept album about suburban London that makes me want to jump on a plane to Heathrow Gatwick. Gorgeous songs, from the very first tracks “Sun in my morning” and “Milk bottle symphony”. And then track 11, the outstanding “Teenage winter”, which is possibly the best thing they’ve ever done. (See this Stylus review for more thoughts on this.)

(N.b. For some reason, this hasn’t been released in the US; my copy is an imported “Special Edition” from the UK that I found at Tower Records. I’ve been enjoying the album itself so much that I haven’t even had a chance to listen to the bonus disc, Up the Wooden Hill.)