They may have made their long-awaited return earlier this year with the excellent Words And Music, but the seven year gap between albums didn’t seem too long, thanks to the lovingly crafted reissue campaign that the trio embarked on some time ago. Over the last three years, the band’s entire back catalogue has been given the ‘deluxe edition’ treatment – new booklets, extra tracks, the works – and Casino Classics sees the project draw to a close.
Casino Classics was originally released in 1996, and collected together the vast amount of remixes of the band’s singles. For the reissue, the track listing has been changed around somewhat – eight tracks have been replaced, but what remains is a mammoth undertaking: four CDs, over 44 tracks and over four hours long (there’s also a more digestible two disc version available).
Just looking down the tracklisting is like reading a list of who’s who in dance music. Saint Etienne’s career trajectory coincided with the rise of the DJ who appealed to indie kids as much as hardened clubber – and as Bob Stanley, Pete Wiggs and Sarah Cracknell were pretty dancefloor friendly themselves, they were never averse to treatments that were more like a reconstruction than a remix.
Casino Classics therefore gives us such names as the Chemical Brothers, Andrew Weatherall, Lionrock, Aphex Twin, Paul Van Dyk and Tiësto, all during the nascent period of their career. It’s fascinating to listen to, and for the most part, the remixes haven’t dated at all. Although some tracks make repeat appearances (including Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Nothing Can Stop Us and Method Of Modern Love) the mixes are sufficiently different enough to make them sound like separate songs.
Only Love Can Break Your Heart is turned into an epic nine minute dub workout by Weatherall, the original’s haunting melodica break and Moria Lambert’s vocals being all that remains from the original, while the band’s other cover version – The Field Mice‘s Kiss And Make Up – is remixed less radically but no less enjoyably by Pete Heller. The Underworld remix of Cool Kids Of Death sounds more like a classic Hyde/Smith/Emerson composition than a Saint Etienne song, while Aphex Twin gives Who Do You Think You Are a suitably spooky transformation.
It’s difficult to pick highlights from such an enormous collection, although MeatBeat Manifesto‘s version of Filthy brings back memories of the ‘summer of Big Beat’, Broadcast’s eerie reconstruction of Angel sends goosebumps down the spine and Add N To X take Uri Geller Bent My Boyfriend and twist it out of all recognition into a bleep filled, proto-dubstep masterpiece. Those with no great love for trance won’t find much to love in Van Dyk’s mix of How We Used To Live or Tiesto’s mix of Action, but the key to enjoying such a huge collection like this is to cherry pick the favourites.
Casino Classics is undoubtedly more for the hardcore Saint Etienne fan than the casual observer – the sheer scale and size of this collection could well prove intimidating for those with only the cursory knowledge of their back catalogue. Yet for the collector, it’s pretty much an obligatory purchase, and one that makes a fine closer to this excellent set of reissues from a band who have quietly become somewhat of a national treasure.