INDIE ANCE: ST ETIENNE / UNDERWORLD

This Sunday and next, it’ll be St Etienne remixes. Their bright shiny, sixties-influenced pop given various fine makeovers. Today, Underworld, Motiv 8, Dot Allison and Aim; with Underworld the pick of the bunch.

 

 

Like most bands formed by former music journalists, Saint Etienne were a highly conceptual group. The trio’s concept was to fuse the British pop sounds of ’60s London with the club/dance rhythms and productions that defined the post-acid house England of the early ’90s. Led by songwriters Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, and fronted by vocalist Sarah Cracknell, the group managed to carry out their concept, and, in the process, Saint Etienne helped make indie dance a viable genre within the U.K. Throughout the early ’90s, Saint Etienne racked up a string of indie hit singles that were driven by deep club beats — encompassing anything from house and techno to hip-hop and disco — and layered with light melodies, detailed productions, clever lyrics, and Cracknell’s breathy vocals. They revived the sounds of swinging London, as well as the concept of the three-minute pop single being a catchy, ephemeral piece of ear candy, in post-acid house Britain, thereby setting the stage for Brit-pop. Though most Brit-pop bands rejected the dance inclinations of Saint Etienne, they nevertheless adopted the trio’s aesthetic, which celebrated the sound and style of classic ’60s pop.

 

The origins of Saint Etienne date back to the early ’80s, when childhood friends Bob Stanley (b. December 25, 1964) and Pete Wiggs (b. May 15, 1966) began making party tapes together in their hometown of Croydon, Surrey, England. After completing school, the pair began worked various jobs — most notably, Stanley was a music journalist — before deciding to concentrate on a musical career in 1988. Adopting the name Saint Etienne from the French football team of the same name, the duo moved to Camden, where they began recording. By the beginning of 1990, the group had signed a record contract with the indie label Heavenly. In the spring of 1990, Saint Etienne released their first single, a house-tinged cover of Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart,” which featured lead vocals from Moira Lambert of the indie pop band Faith Over Reason.

 

“Only Love Can Break Your Heart” became an underground hit, receiving a fair amount of airplay within nightclubs across England. Later in the year, Saint Etienne released their second single, a cover of the indie pop group Field Mice’s “Let’s Kiss and Make Up,” which was sung by Donna Savage of the New Zealand band Dead Famous People. Like its predecessor, “Kiss and Make Up” was an underground hit, helping set the stage for “Nothing Can Stop Us.” Released in the spring of 1991, “Nothing Can Stop Us” was the first Saint Etienne single sung by Sarah Cracknell (b. April 12, 1967), whose girlish vocals became a signature of the group’s sound. Cracknell was the main vocalist on the band’s debut, Fox Base Alpha, which was released in the fall of 1991. Following the release of Fox Base Alpha, Cracknell officially became a member of Saint Etienne; she had previously sung in Prime Time.

 

St Etienne – Cool Kids of Death (Underworld Mix)

 

St Etienne – He’s On The Phone (Motiv8 Mix)

 

St Etienne – How We Used To Live (Dot Allison Mix)

 

St Etienne – How we Used To Live (Aim Mix)

 

~ by acidted on September 6, 2009.

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