Time for sled
Calvin Bush quizzes St Etienne’s Bob Stanley on pop, integrity and song titles, and awards him maximum points.
So waddya want from your pop? Do you even want pop? Are you looking for records that snap and
crackle with the beauty of the instant, records that look good, sound great and make you tingle for,
rather hunch over your ponderous thoughts like Rodin‘s Thinker every time your fave slab of intellectual rock gristle screams, ‘l‘m intense, me!“? If it‘s the latter, I‘m afraid . . . no, I‘m delighted to say that St Etienne are not the band for you.
‘l‘ve got no time for integrity in pop music,‘ rustles the trio‘s spokesperson ‘Rockin" Bob Stanley, as he sets out his own personal pop manifesto. ‘I mean, Phil Spector had no integrity. He still made great records. If you go on too much about integrity, and whether something‘s real or false, you end up making records that don‘t sound remotely pop, records that nobody buys, records like Hue And Cry.‘ Ouch!
‘lt‘s that classic cliché,‘ he continues. ‘lt‘sjust pop music, and you shouldn‘t theorise about it too much — which might sound a bit rich coming from me!‘
Richer than double-whipped dairy cream. See, before our Bob decided tojoin up the pop dots with partners Pete Wiggs (flatmate and fellow golden 45 obsessive) and Sarah Cracknell (elfin-voiced starlet with uncanny verisimilitude to her near-namesake Sarah Green), he was beholden to the good ship Melody Maker as erstwhile staff scribe. As such, his l mission was to agonise, theorise, treatise and above all never ever to allow bands to get away with saying things like . . .
‘I wouldn’t want to make records that sound like I’ve been sweating when I made
them. I just don’t like getting sweaty.’
‘Well, we‘re just making records we really like. If other people like them, well, that‘s just a bonus.‘
But maybe we should let our Bob (who verily quothed the above) off the cufﬁng hookjust this once. Why such clemency, Mr Bush? Firstly, because St Etienne do make excellent records that lots of people like. Bonus. Nextly, this month, they release another: ‘50 Tough‘, the much-delayed follow-up to 199] ‘s Mercury Prize nominee (and soundtrack to a thousand open windows in springtime), Foxbase Alpha. Double bonus. Finally, because ‘50 Tough is
oooh, at least four-and-a-half minutes? Or would you !
another pristine collection of perfect paeans to every ' Giant ever to grace pop‘s rich tapestry: Phil Spector,
Brian Wilson, Arthur Lee, Scott Walker, Van Morrison, etc. Double bonus bonanza.
‘I want people to listen to our records in twenty years‘ time and think notjust that they‘re great but that they‘re great 90s records,‘ says Bob, before launching into an unexpected panegyric to the ‘manufactured pop‘ of Stock, Aitken and Waterman. Heck, this is a man who purposely bought records by Big Fun and Rick Astley.
‘Is it pop for pop‘s sake? Yeah, probably, but i
; wouldn‘t want to make records that sound like I‘ve
been sweating when I made them. [just don‘t like getting sweaty.‘
Like Denim. St Etienne are often misconstrued as clever-clever, not ‘arf. Like Denim, St Etienne litter their records with giveaway reference points to their fave historical any-facts. Unlike Denim, however, St
Etienne don‘t blow their cool by trying to wipe i history‘s slate clean of all that won‘t fit cosin into
their endearing world of thrilling soaraway pop glory. ‘So Tough‘ even has a whacking great Rush riff. From a fan‘s or a watcher‘s point of view?
‘lt‘s a brilliant sound, don‘t you think? Actually, 1
ON FOLLOWING PAGES: BELLY O KATHRYN TICKELL O MICHEL PETRUCCIANI
St Etienne: They go ior those husky voices
was never into them at all,‘ is Bob‘s answer, ‘but
' Pete‘s little brother was really into them, and we
always used to have a real laugh at his expense. They
3 had this song called “By-Tor The Snow Dog“. We‘d
; be sitting around listening to Scott Walker, and the
i fact that anyone could call a record “By-Tor The Snow Dog“ just made us laugh.‘
5 ‘Vle’d been sitting around
’ listening to Scott Walker, and
f the fact that anyone could
i make a record called “By-Tor
The Snow Dog” lust made us laugh.’
No matter that pop snob Bob has himself written songs called ‘Clock Milk‘, ‘Hobart Paving‘ and ‘Junk The Morgue‘. Difference is, Bob knows, Bob smiles wrily at it all. St Etienne got their education and they‘re enjoying giving us ours. Triple pop bonus bonanza forever. Say what?
St Etienne play The Mavifair. Glasgow on Tue 23. So Tough is released by Heavenly Records on Mon 22.
28 The 63—12—25 February 1993