(Saint Etienne live in 1993, by dexter_mixwith)
I could also put this post in a Charity Shoppin' style deal: Hampstead's Oxfam yielded up a goodly number of bargains yesterday. But I'll concentrate on the CD purchase which interested me most (because although Blur's Great Escape and the Commitments soundtrack are lovely and nostalgic, they're not much new to me), Saint Etienne's Too Young To Die, a singles collection collating 1990-1995 in the world of Stanley, Wiggs et al.
My first dalliance with Saint Etienne came around Christmas 1995 when I got the Hits 96 cassette compilation. You know the sort, a knock-off Now variation, it had (if I remember correctly) a fairly wide variety on it, from Robson & Jerome to Oasis to Cher to a comedy version of the Blind Date theme tune. It had one indie-ish side out of four, and that included He's On The Phone. This summed up Saint Etienne's pop-perfect bedsit tales, the indie-dance stylings combining with sumptuous female vocals leading me to more appreciate the next thing I heard by the band. This was Only Love Can Break Your Heart, just recently revealed to me to be a cover of After The Goldrush-era Neil Young. I stand ashamed. This, this was pop perfection, even more so than He's On The Phone and it slid in so nicely amongst the electro-lite stylings of Happy Mondays and New Order on The Greatest Album In The World... Ever, for the unfamiliar an interminable series of indie compilations.
Listening to the Young original now is strange, as I'm so used to the Moira Lambert-led cover, with its dreamy, hazy feel and sooo 1991 beats. The cover takes up Young's plaintive piano piece and adds a euphoric beauty, those vocals just kind of tucked in at the back. It's the sound of my adolescence, once again, which makes it all the more odd to me that I never pursued it any further. But, no time like the present. Only Love Can Break Your Heart, in all its dreamy prettiness, is track one on the singles comp.
Neil Young - Only Love Can Break Your Heart
Saint Etienne - Only Love Can Break Your Heart
Which brings me to track two, which took me by surprise. The Wratten/Hiscock credit didn't register. But of course, it's the Field Mice's classic in electro-pop format, and very lovely it is too. Saint Etienne is pop in the same wasy as, say, Cinerama was pop: knowing but loving, well-constructed in the pop vein but not intended to aim for the lowest common denominator that today's charts aim at. If you're not massively familiar with the original, the chorus will take you by surprise. But love it and cherish it, the song in all its forms, for its a beautiful. I post the music with a dedication to Colin, wherever he might be.
Field Mice - Let's Kiss & Make Up
Saint Etienne - Kiss & Make Up
Artist: Saint Etienne
Recommended: Smash The System: Singles 1990-99
More: Hype Machine; elbo.ws
If you like this you might like: Dubstar - The Best Of
Tags: Saint Etienne; pop; electronica; Neil Young; Field Mice