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SAINT ETIENNE are back with a new album and their first tour in years. Just in time for summer. Perfect.

Words: Sarah Dempster

Cast your mind back. if you will. to the permanently overcast. acid-frazzled wasteland that was pre- Britpop Blighty. I990. Soap-shy tune-dodgers like Ned’s Atomic Dustbin were grazing sloppily on the charts. House survivors were complaining that it just ‘wasn‘t the same anymore. man’. and baggy-gripped goons ran amok like underachieving chimps. It was not the happiest of times. What's more. Suede. Supergrass and the rest of the Britpop cavalry seemed little more than a hack's feverish dream.

But then. just as the whole world threatened to turn Joe Bloggs shaped. a pair of ex-fanzine writers. rightly appalled by the state of the musical ark and determined to inject a much- needed rush of pop purity into the proceedings. released a cover of an old Neil Young track. The duo were called Saint Etienne. the song was the genre-defining ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ and Joe Bloggs was last spotted stacking shelves in a Tesco’s in Barnsley.

‘That was the first thing we ever recorded. actually.‘ chirps the Etienne’s Bob Stanley. a man so absurdly. unstoppany affable. he makes Ronnie Corbett look like a member of Sepultura. ‘We‘d booked into a studio for four hours. without having the foggiest idea of what we were going to do. Me and Pete (Wiggs. Etienne co-conspirator and resident Tarantino double) had been listening to a lot of Neil Young so. because we had so little time. we thought it

Bob Stanley

‘l was worried that we were getting a bit too prog~rock. We knew we had to steer the boat in the opposite direction.‘

Saint Etienne: shimmering pop on a stick

would be easier to do a cover. It seemed to work out quite well. too.‘

it certainly did. The same ice-cool. cut out ‘n‘ keep genius of ‘Only Love. . . ' would lend itself to a

succession of Top Twenty gems. Better still. the dynamic duo would soon be joined by the glorious presence of one Sarah (‘racknell - a pop Venus in fake furs who sang like a starry—eyed. treacle-voiced debutante. Saint litienne. it seemed -- baggy- conquerors. avenging pop angels and all—round swell guys were unstoppable.

But after the acclaimed. eclectic 'l'i'gt'i' Buy album. their first full-scale tour (with some bunch of Mane wastrels called Oasis in tow) and “)5‘s heartrcnding ‘He’s On The Phone‘ single. all became quiet on the Etienne front. With only a solo Sarah (‘racknell album and Casino (‘lussitxs -- a double (‘1) of remixes to appease pining fans. it seemed Britain‘s most lovable pop group had done the unthinkable.

‘We never split tip. honest!‘ chortles Bob before confiding in hushed tones. ‘We were just really tired after the tour and decided to take a little break. Also. I was worried that we were getting a bit too prog-rock. What with the litter Buy cover and some of our more. um. elaborate songs. we knew that we had better steer the boat in the opposite direction.‘

True to his word. all beards have been binned. kaftans shunned and Rick Wakeman's home phone number has been permanently erased from the Stanley lilofax. Prog is off and pop is now firmly back on the Etienne menu. l’ourth album Good Humor is the triumphant result.

‘The feel that we were aiming for was the old Charlie Brown 'l'.V. series. so there's a lot of electric piano and Wurlitzer-style sounds. In fact.‘ continues the pop star (who confesses his greatest concession to rock 'n‘ roll debuachery has been ‘not eating properly") ‘We were actually going to call it ('lturlie Brown Music but it was a bit too obvious. And besides. knowing our luck. we‘d probably get sued!‘

Saint Etienne play Glasgow Garage, Fri 8 May.


For once, an entire Bigmouth without a single quote from the usually mouthy Creation roster of artists. Doh, forgot Toaster.

'The thought of it really goes through me. It's pretty tender around that area, and because of the toilet activities, the idea of infection and corrosion doesn’t really appeal.’

larvis Cocker tells Q readers why he probably wouldn’t consider piercing his genitalia. Why do they want to know? ’Music was a big part of growing up in my family. My brother Alfie used to play the French born, but he had to give it up because it made him constantly want to shit. Y'know, you blow so hard something has to give.’

linani COppo/a reveals some of the lesser known hardships of being a professional musician.

'I watched The Wicker Man once. And I heard them singing all these fertility songs. I just thought "Jesus, I sang them at school!".' Sinclair Hutcheson of Toaster lets NME in on a childhood spent on the Black Isle

’I only did this once, when l was very young. They had this game at the funfair where these little plastic groundhogs would pop up out of holes at random and you have to hit them on the head with a hammer. I fucking killed the bastards. It was the best day of my life.’

Ben Folds of Ben Folds Five reveals his s‘oppy, sentimental side in the NME

’It was colours. I couldn’t eat things that looked a certain way, that were a certain colour. I mean, there was a time when I couldn't eat things that clashed with what I was wearing. It would take me half an hour to pick an apple out of the drawer. | just couldn’t pick the right one.’

Fiona Apple explains to Rolling Stone just what influences her appetite, Can you imagine the problems she would have with a tube of Smarties?

16—30 Apr 1998 THE UST 37