In the pub with Pete Wiggs and David Best

Saint Etienne and Fujiya & Miyagi have both had new albums out this year, so it’s only right that we put together a feature for both bands. We did a proper interview with David Best around the release of EP2 last year though, and we did something fairly extensive with Pete Wiggs when Words and Music came out, so this time round we thought we’d try a different approach. What if we went to the pub and just had a chat? No more boring interview questions that they’ve been asked a thousand times already, and more of an insight into what they’re really like coming out through the topics that came up naturally. So a couple of weeks ago we sat down in The Urchin to chew the cud about being big in China, getting trick-or-treated by Gomez, rotting whales, Twin Peaks, Columbo, Bowie, Aphex Twin and gout:

IMG_0766eesOn Festivals:
David Best: We’ve just played Glastonbury
Pete Wiggs: We played last year – It was raining.
DB: It’s the first one I’ve been to where it wasn’t raining. In a few weeks we’re playing a Festival at the bottom of Mount Etna, alongside Air, which is quite nice, then another one the week after. Then we’re playing Liverpool Psych Fest, which I’ve never been to. The line up is nuts so I’m quite excited about that.
PW: We’re doing Port Eliot Festival, down in Cornwall. I’ve been going to it the last few years. The first couple of times I took the wife and kids, because I heard it’s a good family one, then last year I couldn’t make it and the wife took the kids without me because she liked it so much! We’re playing this year and we’re all going again. It’s really nice. We’re doing Green Man as well, I’ve not been to that before.
DB: We’re hopefully going to China in the New Year. This Chinese band wanted us to do a remix, and they’re really good – kind of post punk. I suggested doing a swap and it’s snowballed from there. I wanna be big in China! There’s a label based there who are interested in reissuing our stuff. I love going to places I’ve never been to, and I love the idea of going to China.

On fellow Brighton & Hove musicians and journalists:
DB: I saw Steve Mason once. There’s some really good conker trees on Pembroke Crescent, and it just so happened that I was looking for conkers with my sons and he just walked past us. When we started, one of the bands that we were into was the Beta Band.
PW: He’s really nice actually, we’ve made friends since we’ve moved down here. He DJs sometimes at the Coopers Cask. I met him at one of those.
Brighton Music Blog: Do you ever see Simon Price?
PW: Hardly ever, actually. I occasionally see him at gigs, he’s easy to spot. I was in Brighton once, and I couldn’t tell – I think it was him without his horns on and I didn’t want to say hello because he didn’t have any make up on. It probably wasn’t him at all! Do you know Tom from Gomez?
DB: We almost shared a studio with him, but I’ve never actually met him.
PW: He’s a lovely bloke – I met him through Steve Mason. I met him in the pub and then about two weeks later it was Halloween, and I’d been out trick or treating with the kids. I came back and they went off somewhere else so it was just me in the house on my own with vampire gear on and there was a knock at the door and I’d only got two sweets left, it looked really dodgy, and it was Tom and his kids!

On Hastings:
PW: A friend of mine who lives here is just about to move to Hastings.
DB: The old town of Hastings is really lovely. Me and my girlfriend were thinking of moving there years ago, when we first had our kid. It was really lovely. But the new part is just rubbish.
PW: It’s quite Brexit
DB: I didn’t really want to bring my kids up there. We’re spoiled because Hove’s so nice, with all the parks and beaches.
PW: When I was a kid in 1976, we were staying with my grandparents in Hastings and they had this sideshow on the beach that was a blue whale. It was a like a cross between something out of League of Gentlemen and David Lynch. There was these two characters who had decked this area off, you know down by the tall black fisherman’s huts, the very creepy old bit. And they fenced it off and they got this articulated truck, and they ushered you in, you paid money, and it was literally a whale on the back of a truck, covered in tar to stop it going mouldy. Just a dead whale, with flies on it. I’m still quite impressed by it though.

On Twin Peaks:
DB: Talking of David Lynch, have you been watching Twin Peaks?
PW: No, not yet.
BMB: I read that interview about you and Twin Peaks in the Quietus which was hilarious.
PW: We were kind of obsessed with it when it first came out in the nineties.
DB: I loved it at the time, but I was a bit worried – how was it going to work? But it’s AMAZING. It’s just staggering.
BMB: I got really, really excited about it coming back. We’ve got Virgin at home, with something like a thousand Sky channels. Brilliant – I’ll be able to watch Twin Peaks! But what’s the one Sky channel we haven’t got? Sky Atlantic.
PW: We’ve got Now TV for those things, cos you can watch it on that. But our kids are a bit older and we tend to watch telly with them, so we haven’t watched Twin Peaks yet.

On writing lyrics:
BMB: Do you still write in those between albums?
DB: I don’t really write music so much, but I always try and write words. So if someone says something I write it down there and then into a note on my phone. I have them by month so I have July words, then I print them off. I’ve got this folder. But also I went through the whole of Columbo and took things from that. I love Columbo – it’s so well written. So I’ve got a big folder of eleven seasons of Columbo. I’m quite interested in Kojak, but the box set is a bit too pricey. I’m waiting till it goes down to twenty quid.
PW: You know record lists, from record dealers? We used to get sent these soul ones, on paper in those days, and we’d bring them into the studio to go through the titles “Oh, that’ll do” and take lines from them
DB: I got bang into Northern Soul and a lot of old soul ballads about six or seven years ago, that’s all I used to listen to for two or three years, but the titles are great, it’s true. I’ve nicked some too.
PW: “Let me slightly rephrase that”
DB: Not even that!
PW: Lyrics are my least favourite bit. I normally leave them till last and hope the others do them. I only wrote lyrics to two of the songs on the new album, and the odd word here and there.

On Aphex Twin:
PW: He did a remix for us way back in 94, and we went around to his flat in London. It was great because he totally lived up to what you’d expect. You went in and there were keyboards all over the floor with wires hanging out, and circuit benders. I didn’t know what that was at the time, but he’d been doing it, and massive speakers which were ridiculously loud. I did actually think “poor neighbours”. We ended up going to watch the fireworks display with him round the corner.
DB: My mate Jordan, who was the Railway Raver on Rephlex, used to go around to his house and play Pong. Jordan’s lovely but he’s the loudest person ever so he’s the last person you’d want to lose to Pong to because you’d never hear the end of it. Apparently Richard James had had enough of him but couldn’t get out the front door because his flatmate had taken the keys so he climbed out the window to get away from Jordan’s gloating. He’s created his own mythology, with all these things he does or doesn’t do. He said he dreamt Ambient Works II, didn’t he?

On major world events:
PW: There’s normally a Saint Etienne gig or recording when any of these big events happen so we expect the worst. We’ve had a few – The day of the Brexit vote we were in Scotland doing a gig and in the morning we had a really sombre breakfast. We went in thinking it was going to be fine. Most elections it’s happened too.
DB: Remember when there was this craze for doing mash ups? Me and my mate did Pied Piper and Axel F on what turned out to be 9/11. I bunked off work – I was working at Amex at the time and I threw a sicky so we could do it. My mate’s flatmate was going “You’ve got to see what’s going on on telly. It’s insane”. And we were like “We’ve just got to finish this”.

On kids:
PW: Bob’s just had his first kid. Late starter. He’s about a year old I think. Bob’s eighteen months older than me, so he’s 52, 53. He’s going to be knackered, especially if he has any more. Now, me and Sarah are like “now you understand”
BMB: Are your kids at the age where you’re influencing their music tastes yet?
PW: I did used to put one of our own records on in my youngest’ s room because it made her go to sleep but they’re both doing piano lessons and that’s the only thing we make them do. They’re much better than me already. They’re both really good. My older boy doesn’t practice but my daughter will just do it. She’s got an amazing memory. She can’t necessarily read it but she’ll remember whole pieces. It’s lovely to hear as well. My son listens to music though – I don’t know what it is half the time. I know what he likes – the stuff we both like is Daft Punk and stuff with vocoders on.
DB: My youngest loves David Bowie. If we sing along to David Bowie and I sing, he’d be like “Daddy, I’m David Bowie”. And if my eldest sings along he says “Daddy, I’m David Bowie, aren’t I? He can’t be”, so I say “You’re both David Bowie – Have you not seen the Blue Jean video? There’s two of him”. And then today before I came out, we invented a game where we had to say the first line of a Bowie song and we all had to guess what it was. It was brilliant.
PW : I feel like I’ve failed in that respect. My son really likes Coldplay. Since he’s liked them I don’t dislike them as much now.
DB: It’s hard to dislike what your kids like.

On gout:
DB: I get gout sometimes. It came on after I went for a drink with Chris who runs Bleeding Hearts Recordings. Some people say it’s worse than childbirth. I haven’t said that – I don’t think it is, but it’s excruciating. I was drinking lots of fizzy pop at the time, so I just stopped all that and I haven’t had a problem in a year or so. Booze is the trigger. Everyone has different triggers – It can be things like asparagus and mushrooms and bacon. For me I always drank too much coca cola, and then if I went out for a drink, I don’t drink too much, often I would suffer. We did a show in Italy once and I had an attack the day before and I had to be wheeled through the airport, and I had to sit on the stage like I was John Lee Hooker. And it was the only show that my mum had come to so I couldn’t cancel it. The funny thing was that it was in an amphitheatre for Nike, and there was these runners, and the finish line was to the left of the stage where I was with my gout-y foot.
BMB: You did that track / mix for Nike – Different Blades from the Same Pair of Scissors.
DB: Yeah – it was tied in with that so it was around that time. And there was Carl Lewis backstage, and I was just there with my gout. It’s not a nice thing. You can control it by taking better care of yourself. But there’s also a correlation between your Uric acid levels and (this is so pretentious) your creativity. “I’ve got to not get gout but push it as far as I can so I can get my songs out”.
PW: Let’s hope it doesn’t come on when you’re on tour in China.
DB: Gout in China. That could be my autobiography.

Home Counties Fujiya

Home Counties by Saint Etienne and Fujiya & Miyagi by Fujiya & Miyagi are out now.

New Brighton Albums

I promised an album post last week, maybe even the week before, but what with the heatwave we’ve had, sitting inside writing blog post hasn’t been top of my agenda. So of the albums I’m about to write about that were out already this post is a little bit more out of out of date, but for those albums that aren’t out yet perhaps it’s a bit more relevant.

St Et Home CountiesThe first couple of albums are by bands not traditionally associated with Brighton but who have a couple of members now resident in the city. Saint Etienne’s Pete Wiggs has been based in Hove for nearly ten years now, but the band won’t ever shake their London associations. Their new album Home Counties references their childhood in the outskirts of London and beyond – Pete and Bob’s formative years were in Reigate and Croydon, and Sarah was born in Chelmsford and spend some of her youth in Windsor. The album’s not about being children though, but instead uses the locations as reference points in passing with songs such as The Angel of Woodhatch, and Whyteleafe, and the widescreen vision of Sweet Arcadia taking in train journeys across all of the home counties (where to bring things back to Brighton, Peacehaven gets a mention). Home Counties is out now on Heavenly Records.

Lucky Soul Hard LinesLucky Soul were also a band who had London associations, Greenwich to be precise. These days though, two of the band – bassist Russell Grooms and guitarist Ivor Sims – are both based in Brighton. There’s a gap of more than seven years between their last album A Coming Of Age, and their new album Hard Lines which comes out on August 11th. They’ve ditched their “Motown Meets Morrissey” sound from the first two albums and have gone disco for the new release, but the sound is still unmistakeably Lucky Soul. So far they’ve only announced one London gig so far (and haven’t even said where that is), but they had a photo of them rehearsing at Brighton Electric in their Instagram feed so we’re keeping our fingers crossed for one a little closer to home.

Gaps As It IsWe’ve given the GAPS album As It Is a few mentions over the last few weeks, as they’ve dropped tracks from it on Soundcloud, and met up with the duo for our most recent Brighton Rocks post. The album came out last weekend and is available through iTunes and the other usual download stores.

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Pog Little TrophiesWe saw a poster for the launch gig for Pog’s Little Trophies album up in a café a few weeks ago and made a note to check it out (although we couldn’t make it – it would have been on 1st June). According to their bandcamp page the album been out since January, so we really missed the boat there. Then we did a bit more digging and read that Little Trophies was Pog’s FIFTEENTH album. So we’ve really, really missed the boat with Pog. We’ll be paying more attention in future

Theo Verney One Small PieceLast week Theo Verney shared Letter Down, the second single from his upcoming album One Small Piece, which comes out on 7th July on Cannibal Hymns. If you pre-order the album now through Theo’s bandcamp page you’ll get immediate downloads of Letter Down and previous single Mind Fire.

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Fij Bickers MillionairesPete Fij & Terry Bickers have also recently shared the second single from their upcoming album. The single’s called Love’s Gonna Get You, and is taken from We Are Millionaires, which comes out on 14th July on Broadcast Recordings. There’s a mini tour at the end of August which stops by at The Rialto on 30th. See you down the front.

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Kemper NortonLast up, news of an album inspired by inspired by the story of a semi-legendary Danish privateer and gang leader who terrorised the north Cornish coast in the late eighteenth century. Obviously. The album from Kemper Norton is called Hungan, which is Cornish for Lullaby and is out on July 17th. If that’s too long to wait, you can pre-order the album now and download two tracks from the record immediately, or you can catch them, at Brighton Noise’s Day VI all dayer at the Green Door Store on 8th July.

 

 

 

Electric Soft Parade’s Thomas White covers Saint Etienne’s Good Humor

About half an hour ago we sat down to pen a new music blog post, which will be coming soon, but before we get to that something popped up that distracted us from the matter at hand.

saint-etienne-good-humor

Back in January we posted news of two covers albums by the White brothers, and news has just reached us of the latest instalments in their ongoing covers project. Alex White is working on another Steely Dan, while Thomas has posted up his take on Saint Etienne’s Good Humor. As with their previous covers albums, it’s pretty much a note for note re-recording of the original, but where Saint Etienne decamped to Malmo in Sweden for a summer and roped in the Cardigans producer to produce the album using old 60s analogue equipment, Thomas has recorded his version at home on Garageband in the space of a week. You can download it for free over on bandcamp now:

 

The ones that got away

We wrote about loads of bands earlier this month in an arbitrary personal take on the year, but there’s been lots going on that we couldn’t include for one reason or the other. There were lots of bands who were just bubbling under, we didn’t write about any bands who were from Brighton – obviously – and we kept the list just to bands and didn’t mention venues or events or stuff like that.

We tried to have a bit of balance across our advent calendar, making sure we had big and small bands, so it was always going to be the case that there was going to be some we couldn’t fit in. As well as The Maccabees and Bat for Lashes hitting hard for Brighton, Blood Red Shoes and Orbital were troubling the charts. While we’re talking about big acts, Fatboy Slim‘s most recent Big Beach Boutique was a success not on the beach but at the Amex, where they apparently ran out of beer on the first night. On the subject of local bands in sports venues, hundreds of people braved the rain in July when Rizzle Kicks accompanied the entrance of the Olympic Torch to Hove Cricket Groung Saint Etienne were further down our longlist than the album “Words and Music by Saint Etienne” and their gig at the Concorde warranted, but with only Pete Wiggs living in Brighton, we had to prioritise bands with more local members.

Other bands with albums out in 2012 who we just couldn’t fit in were Tall Ships, Cave Painting, Ital Tek (referred to by one of my mates as possibly his album of the year), Sparrow and Negative Pegasus. When Todd Jordan isn’t being part of Negative Pegasus, he’s also one third of promoters One Inch Badge, who brought us the fantastic Sea Monsters festival at the Prince Albert as well as dozens of other great gigs, and is one of the people responsible for Bizarro World, a monthly covers gig which is so much better than it sounds on paper.

There’s a few bands who’ve caught our eye that we’re expecting big things from in 2013. Crayola Lectern‘s album is recorded and due to arrive in Spring sometime on Bleeding Hearts Recordings. We saw Dead Cars live a few weeks ago and really really liked what they were doing, but it was too late to squeeze them into our list. But if we were to be pushed to name one act whose year it could be then we’d have to say Anneka. We’ve only seen her live once so far (supporting Com Truise at The Haunt), but there was something about what she was doing that sounded so fully formed, that she’s bound to be huge.

Outside of Brighton, here’s our top ten albums and top five tracks of the year:

1. Melody’s Echo Chamber / Melody’s Echo Chamber
2. Beth Orton / Sugaring Season
3. Laetitia Sadier / Silencio
4. Toy / Toy
5. Raveonettes / Observator
6. Clock Opera / Ways to Forget
7. Best Coast / The Only Place
8. Black Reindeer / Real Life is Overrated
9. Scuba / Personality
10. Cornshed Sisters / Tell Tales

1. Mmoths / Heart
2. Blur / Under The Westway
3. Saint Etienne / Tonight
4. Minotaur Shock / Janet
5. Lee Hazlewood / Souls Island

Weekend Gig Picks

So, we’ve got a veritable bonanza of weekend gigs for you this week. Last week I was musing that maybe things that might get a bit quieter in the run up to Christmas – how wrong I was.

Holy VesselsLet’s start this with Thursday – it is the start of the weekend after all. We’ll be heading down to the Concorde 2 to see Saint Etienne (with support from Scritti Politti – what a line up, eh?). Also on thursday night there’s Mr B‘s Chap Hop Christmas Ball at the Prince Albert. Holy Vessels play their album launch at the Blind Tiger, with support from Soccer96, Autumn Red, The Common Tongues and Songs For Walter. Last Orders at the Marshall Arms is out now and available from iTunes. Paul Diello plays his annual Christmas party at  the Brunswick, and Alice Amelia plays the Constant Service.

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Noise NightOn Friday British Sea Power return with a special Christmas Krankenhaus at The Haunt. Our friends over at Brighton Noise are putting on their second night at the Green Door Store. They were turning people away from first one, so get their early to see Traams, Bitches and the fantastic Negative Pegasus. Transformer are launching their single Dragonfly at the Blind Tiger. Check out the Facebook event for more details and a look at the video. The last gig on our radar on friday is at the Coach House in Kemptown (not the pub on Middle Street), where Crayola Lectern headlines a “veritable melange of auditory delights”.

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binge2posterOn Saturday The Impellers hold their Office Christmas Party at The Brunswick, which is cheap to get into if you’ve got a ticket for Craig Charles later that night. If you’d like to start things a bit earlier on in the day, Beatabet kick things off at 1pm. They’ve got twelve bands playing at their Betabet BingeP for Persia, Spacenoid, Napoleon III, Colectress, Speak Galactic, Laboratoro, Old Man Diode, Scalar Fields, Duot, Operator, Temple Decade and Burnt Toast. Phew!

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art noiseIf you’ve still got any energy left come Sunday, then our top pick is Cate Ferris at The Neptune. There’s also an art event at the Blind Tiger called Wonderland, where Amongst The Pigeons, Them The Sky, Tiny Dragons, and the Elevators and Ribbon play in the evening. In yet another night in town with an above average number of bands on the bill, there’s also Club Criminal at Sticky Mike’s, starting from 5pm, with Trip to Dover, The Flip Flays, The Kut, Thieves by the Code, The Trophy Hearts, Childbrain and King Mews.

Saint Etienne / Casino Classics

Despite appearances, 1996 was a good year for Saint Etienne. Although it was two years since Tiger Bay came out and another two years before they would release Good Humor they weren’t resting on their laurels. I would regularly see them DJing at the Heavenly Jukebox at Turnmills, alongside the likes of The Chemical Brothers. It seems kind of crazy to think that you could go clubbing where the Chemical Brothers were residents, but remember that Dig Your Own Hole didn’t come until 1997. If it wasn’t the Chemical Brothers headlining the night, it would be David Holmes, or Richard Fearless from Death in Vegas, or Jon Carter from Monkey Mafia, or Andy Weatherall. Only in retrospect can I see just how stellar the line ups were.

Saint Etienne have had one foot in the charts and the other on the dancefloor ever since Pete Wiggs and Bob Stanley decided to cover a Neil Young song because they hadn’t yet written any songs of their own. The 7″ version of Only Love Can Break Your Heart is a Balearic classic, but Andrew Weatherall’s Mix of Two Halves (a nod to the fact that Saint Etienne are named after the football team rather than the French town) was the first of dozens and dozens of remixes which were as good, if not better than the original.

In 1995 the limited edition run of Saint Etienne’s first best of, Too Young To Die, came with a bonus disc of remixes which went down a storm. The following year this bonus disc got a full release with an extra cd. Casino Classics hit the shelves and featured remixes by The Chemical Brothers, Aphex Twin, Way Out West, Underworld, Monkey Mafia and Death in Vegas. Where the first disc was previously released mixes, the tracks on disc two were brand new unreleased remixes. Some were remixes of tracks that hadn’t even been released, and tucked at the end of the compilation was a remix by Broadcast, who at the time had only put out one EP and had yet to sign to Warp records.

Over the past three years, Saint Etienne have slowly been reissuing remasters of all of their old albums, and it’s now Casino Classic’s turn. Where each previous reissue has included an extra disc of material, the deluxe reissue of Casino Classics comes with two discs of additional material covering some of the best remixes since the original release all the way through to the release of London Conversations – the remastered Greatest Hits which kicked off the reissues. On the new version we’ve gained remixes of tracks by the likes of Paul Van Dyk, Faze Action, Tiesto, Aim, Add N to X and Hybrid, as well as US-only remixes of Only Love Can Break Your Heart and Nothing Can Stop Us by Masters at Work. There’s also some more remixes from the older days which weren’t included on the original Casino Classics including Pete Heller’s piano house take on Kiss and Make Up which only ever came out on 12″ over twenty years ago. Completing the circle, things finish with their Cola boy remix of The Method of Modern Love – the last single from the period covered. Cola Boy was another project that Pete and Bob were involved with in the early days of Saint Etienne, who only released two singles in 1991.

It’s hard to know where to start with recommending tracks from this compilation. I’ve already mentioned the Andrew Weatherall remix of Only Love Can Break Your Heart, and the Broadcast take on Angel. David Holmes remixed Like a Motorway before he got the funk, and is an amazing thirteen minute acid-techno wig out. The Monkey Mafia remix of Filthy is a big beat classic. The Faze Action mix of Sylvie is ten minutes of brilliant Latin house. Cool Kids of Death mixed by Underworld has been slimmed down by four minutes from the original to be able to fit more tracks in, but you still get more ten minutes of it. Their foray into drum’n’bass – when PFM remixed Down By The Sea is also reduced by half, but across the four cds (and the bonus downloads), you get a monster 54 tracks. It’s astonishing for any band to have that many remixes in the first place, let alone so many over so many years of such consistently high quality.

Casino Classics is out on Monday 12th November. On the same day, there’s also a deluxe reissue of Sarah Cracknell’s solo album Lipslide. Saint Etienne get a mention because Pete’s a Hove resident these days, but since Sarah isn’t a Brightonian I won’t be writing about what a great single Anymore was, or about how Summer Song (previously issued as a Saint Etienne song on the fan club only Boxette) is one of the absolute very best things to have come from the Saint Etienne camp, or about the mystery of multiple inclusions of some songs at the expense of the lilting acoustic bossa nova of b-side Oh Boy The Feeling When You Held My Hand (which you can buy as an mp3 from Amazon here). Oh wait, hang on…

Saint Etienne play the Concorde 2 on 13th December

Album Review: Words & Music by Saint Etienne

Music’s always been a big deal for me. One of my earliest memories is looking at the cover of my mum’s copy of Sergeant Pepper, slightly baffled by all of the characters on it. Growing up, I always had my walkman with me along with an extra pair of batteries in my pocket just so that I was never left stranded in silence. When I was old enough to have a bit of spare cash, I’d cycle to the record shops of Croydon and Epsom doing my best to fill the gaps in my ever increasing New Order 12″ collection. At uni I got involved with student radio, and then when I went and got a job, Monday lunchtimes would draw to close with a game of “Who?” – the inevitable reaction from my older colleagues as I went through the brand new releases I had gone and bought as early as I possibly could – 7″s by Kenickie, Bis or Comet Gain, Stereolab albums on coloured vinyl, the latest cds on Heavenly or Warp Records. Throughout my twenties, my summer holidays were festivals. Over the years I built up a soundtrack to my life – tunes which can instantly bring back memories of blue skies or broken hearts. So, music is important – If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be writing this, and you wouldn’t be reading it. It’s especially important to Saint Etienne. They’ve been making records for over twenty years now, during which time they’ve also turned their hand to music journalism, DJing, running record labels, writing songs for other people, film-making … You name it, they’ve done it in the music industry, which is how they’ve ended up at the point where Words & Music is the natural album for them to make. Opening track Over The Border will send shivers down the spine for anyone music really matters to, lyrically encapsulating exactly how it feels for music to grow up with you.

The very first thing I read about the album was a comment from someone on Twitter saying that Saint Etienne had made a pop record. Of course it was pop, I thought – they’re a pop band, after all. The gist of next comment I read was that they’d made the record with Xenomania, and it showed. That didn’t concern me either. The lead single, Tonight, reminded me of Action, which the band released ten years ago, and my girlfriend said that reminded it her of He’s on the Phone, from all the way back in 1995. The perception from some quarters seems to be that Saint Etienne should only be allowed to make retro pop, but the truth is that they’ve always had a bit of disco in them – They even worked with Kylie on a version of Nothing Can Stop Us.

While some of the tracks have been sprinkled with a bit of pop magic from Richard X and other Xenomania alumni Nick Coler and Tim Powell, old hand Ian Catt who’s been involved with the production of Saint Etienne records since day one is also on board. Outside of the disco pop of the potential singles, the pastoral folk of I Threw It All Away could be a Vashti Bunyan cover, and the acapella of Record Doctor harks back to Goodnight which closed Tales From Turnpike House seven years ago.

For me, the most interesting tracks are those that hark back to classic St Et but that are informed by all of the new lessons they’ve learned from their new chartbusting friends. Last Days of Disco has radio friendly electric piano verses, but two minutes in has a great breakdown which brings in some shamelessly synth strings. Popular, one of the more upbeat tracks on the album, does some fancy things time stretching vocals. Still Saint Etienne, but still moving forwards, which for a band so far into their career is no mean feat.

While it’s been a good few years since the last Saint Etienne album, the band have been busy being Artists-in-Residence at Royal Festival Hall, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of their seminal debut Foxbase Alpha by playing the album live in it’s entirety and having it remixed by Richard X, reissuing remastered versions of the rest of their back catalogue, remixing a new generation of bands and quietly sneaking out a Christmas album. Here’s hoping there aren’t so many distractions for the band between now and the next album.

Words and Music by Saint Etienne is released on Universal Records on 21st May 2012. And if you’re wondering why I’m writing about Saint Etienne who are so associated with London on Brighton Music Blog, read my interview with Pete Wiggs here.