Album review: Saint Etienne – Home Counties

PUBLISHED: 17:49 15 June 2017 | UPDATED: 18:16 15 June 2017

Sarah Cracknell of Saint Etienne performing at Glastonbury 2016. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Archive

Sarah Cracknell of Saint Etienne performing at Glastonbury 2016. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Archive

PA Archive/PA Images

You can count on few fingers the number of bands who’d be able to make you cry using the words “on the rail replacement bus”.

Saint Etienne - Home CountiesSaint Etienne - Home Counties

However long they stay away, each time Saint Etienne sweep through the door smelling of brandy and rain you realise their return was inevitable: they love their ridiculous, beautiful craft far too much for any hiatus to be more than a hangover.

Home Counties is Saint Etienne at their most various, stretching to 56 minutes and 19 tracks. Recall that at one stage of their career the film dialogue and overdriven field recordings threatened to swamp the blissful songs laid between them, but that long ago they learnt how less is sometimes more. It’s slightly alarming, therefore, that this record contains just as many interludes as the confusing (but brilliant) So Tough, and that Saint Etienne can no longer make 15 tracks feel like an EP. Never before have they needed two discs to cram it all in, and occasionally Home Counties does feel like slightly heavy going, Modern Life Is Rubbish rather than Parklife.

But when they get it right few can match them, and this album will have you howling with laughter even as you worry about the cruelty of time.

Whyteleafe imagines Bowie as an exasperated office worker, and in so doing graciously pretends that any of us might have a dormant Thin White Duke coiled inside us - or that we might be squandering him.

Dive is a thirst-quenching hit of Latin disco, and Out Of My Mind is what might have happened had OMD ghost-written Kylie’s Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi.

But the gem here is the sprawling, moody, half-spoken Sweet Arcadia - the only time Saint Etienne allow Home Counties the run of its running time. It closes the record with the sobriety of an off-stage comedian, like Neil Hannon at his best; like dormant laughter lines, or seeing your best friend dressed for a funeral.

And now, with barely a moment to spare, you remember why you miss them so terribly every time they vanish for five years.

4/5

Related articles

Latest Hampstead & Highgate Stories

FA Women’s Championship: Lewes Women 1 Tottenham Hotspur Ladies 3

Yesterday, 17:08

Barnet Council’s finances came under scrutiny last week as the fallout continued from the fraud that saw a Capita employee swindle £2m from council coffers.

Yesterday, 16:06

Haringey is “prostituting” Finsbury Park out for Wireless Festival and should scrap the event, neighbours argued at a licensing sub-committee meeting last night.

Yesterday, 15:00

The Coles Park club have lost three of their last four games, but the squad are not worried

Yesterday, 12:00

The experienced goalkeeper impressed during last weekend’s 1-0 victory over Leatherhead on Non-League Day

Yesterday, 11:41

A former council candidate and a management consultant have been chosen to stand for the Green Party at the next general election.

Yesterday, 10:00

Harry Kane, Eric Dier, Harry Winks and Kieran Trippier all featured for the Three Lions in their 3-2 victory away to Spain

Yesterday, 09:05

The National Basketball Association (NBA) and Sky Sports today announced a new four-year broadcast and multiplatform partnership that will see Sky Sports become the NBA’s exclusive broadcast partner and official website operator in the UK and Ireland.

Most read Hampstead & Highgate etcetera

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now