From L-to-R: Sarah Cracknell, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs
Saint Etienne are a pop group from London
who are sometimes described as making "indie dance" music. The band was founded in 1991 by ex-music journalists Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, who named it after a French football team, and they originally had rotating guest singers until Sarah Cracknell joined them permanently, midway through production of their first album.
Their most famous single is their first, a cover of the Neil Young song "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" – which was not sung by Sarah, ironically given that she is generally considered the Face of the Band
Most of their music can accurately be described as a love song dedicated to London, the city in which the band is based, despite one of their major influences being Northern Soul music.
An incomplete discography:
- Foxbase Alpha (1991)
- So Tough (1993)
- Tiger Bay (1994)
- Good Humor (1998)
- The Misadventures of Saint Etienne (1999) (Soundtrack)
- Sound of Water (2000)
- Finisterre (2002)
- Tales from Turnpike House (2005)
- What Have You Done Today Mervyn Day? (2006) (Soundtrack)
- Foxbase Beta (2009) (Remix Album of their debut, Foxbase Alpha)
- Words and Music by Saint Etienne (2012)
- Age Progression Song: "Over The Border".
- Alternative Dance: often classified as "Indie Dance", which can be considered a subgenre of Alternative Dance.
- Ballad of X: "Ballade de Saint Etienne".
- Concept Album: Tales from Turnpike House, which features various stories about the residents in a neighbourhood somewhere in London. Also Words and Music by Saint Etienne is about music fandom.
- The Cover Changes... Almost Everything, Actually: "I'm Too Sexy". The story goes that when they got into the studio to record the song, they couldn't remember how it goes, so they made it up on the spot.
- Cover Version: Quite a few, including songs by David Bowie, Teenage Fanclub, Scott Walker, and, famously, Neil Young ("Only Love Can Break Your Heart").
- Everything Is an Instrument: "People Get Real" includes a jet engine (Heavenly Records boss Jeff Barrett is credited with "playing" it). Given that it appears prominently in the middle eight, it's effectively the song's lead solo.
- Fourth Ranger: Long-serving backing singer Debsey Wykes.
- Greatest Hits Album: Several, but the two-disc Smash The System: Singles And More is the best - not least because of its Neapolitan ice cream cover.
- Growing Up Sucks: Oh god, "Teenage Winter".
- Hymn to Music: A favourite theme, most famously employed for "Join Our Club" and most of Words and Music by Saint Etienne.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: the repeated, distorted refrain in "Girl VII". Producer Ian Catt and remixer Richard X may be the only people outside the band who know for sure what it says - and Pete Wiggs claims he's forgotten. Lyric sites give it as "Carrie's got a boyfriend", but that may just be Fanon.
- Listing Cities: In one song on Foxbase Alpha entitled Girl VII, Sarah starts listing London neighbourhoods and a few other cities.
- Lyrical Dissonance: The relatively upbeat "Goodnight Jack" tells the story of a woman who, after her man says he only wants to be her friend, runs him over and escapes the scene of the crime.
- Murder Ballad: "Like A Motorway".
- One of Us: All of them are music nerds, but Bob especially (not surprising when you consider his original career was as a music journalist).
- Retraux: They like to play with this in both the music and its packaging.
- Self-Demonstrating Song: About half way through "California Snow Story", Sarah says "I think I'll just let the music play", and that's exactly what happens, as the second half is entirely instrumental.
- Self-Deprecation: Their sleevenotes do this a lot.
- Shout-Out: Their songs are so packed with these, it took the crowdsourcing power of the internet to decipher the dense web of references.
- Sibling Triangle: "Sylvie", sung from the POV of Sarah's character towards her younger sister (the titular Sylvie). She warns Sylvie not to flirt too much:
"Sylvie, girl, I'm a very patient person,
But I'll have to shut you down,
If you don't give up your flirting.
Leave him alone, ''cause I know he loves me.
Leave him alone, ''cause he tells me he loves me."
- Song Of Song Titles: "Popular".
- Step Up to the Microphone: Pete Wiggs on "I'm Too Sexy".
- With Lyrics: The previously instrumental "Stoned To Say The Least" gained lyrics twenty years later.
- Word Salad Lyrics: "Hobart Paving" among others.