Album review: Saint Etienne

Saint Etienne - Home Counties (Heavenly Recordings)

Saint Etienne.

Saint Etienne.

THESE last few weeks I've reviewed new albums by Slowdive, The Charlatans, and The Jesus and Mary Chain, while RIDE's comeback, Weather Diaries, awaits a listen. It all leads me to ask: What year is this?

It's a question amplified by Home Counties, another new album from another major British 1990s band - Saint Etienne - and yet, it's heartening that so many of these veterans do not relying on past glories and nostalgia, but are genuinely capable of producing new music of substance and quality.

A concept album, it explores the push and pull of home - the deep love of it, and the need to break from it. Hence it is peppered with BBC Radio 4 style announcements and a Church of England boys choir, while on 'Sweet Arcadia', vocalist Sarah Cracknell, backed by loungecore grooves, recalls stops on a train journey through southern England.

Yet there is no Little Englander/Brexit mentality at work here. As much as they love their native land, Saint Etienne also need the broader scope and ideas offered by travel, from the need to get away (the invigorating dance-pop of 'Dive' ) to awe at the cultural achievements of "Paris in the sixties...Stockholm in the nineties" ('Whyteleafe' ).

Although it runs out of steam towards the end, the quality of the above mentioned tracks, along with the sophisticated indie-pop of 'The Reunion' and 'Magpie Eyes', and its overall genre diversity, make this another fine new album, from another long running band.

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