Published on June 16th, 2017 | by voxx0
Saint Etienne – Home Counties
The long-haul pop romantics’ paean to the Home Counties…
Pop music loves mythologising points on the map, from the English North to the American West. Fifty-six minutes is not long in which to depict the counties encircling London that are often written off as uptight non-places devoid of charm, but wilfully, this is what Saint Etienne do on their follow-up to 2012’s Words and Music by Saint Etienne – they turn their gaze on the Home Counties and find magic in them.
To a soundtrack that spins the dial between glistening synth tunes, earthy interludes and superior retro-pop, this imaginative space is populated by the lovelorn (‘Out Of My Mind’), dreamy suburban Europhiles (‘Whyteleafe’) and, on impressionistic time-travelogue ‘Sweet Arcadia’, the unbeaten third estate of England. After 27 years at the coalface of merging the meta with pop-as-such, instead of donning comfy slippers to make an album of discreet songs, this audacious concept album tells real people song-stories: of the music train drivers like on ‘Train Drivers In Eyeliner’.
Rather than evoking pasts à la Village Green Preservation Society, Home Counties is a state-of-the-nation address tackling the thorny subject of where those who run the country retreat after putting the little people in their place. Naturally, every song is a fully formed gem underscoring Saint Etienne’s unique way with setting reflective pop upon a dancefloor chassis. It’s a multi-layered, detailed affair, which proves that almost three decades on from their debut, their edge is still keen. Would that every pop album were this astute and poignant.
- By Jake White