Six albums in and Saint Etienne show no signs of giving up on their lounge-core disco sound. Critics have always found it easy to write them off as being too self-assured in their knowledge of pop history, far too aware of their influences (their last album featured a virtual reading list in its sleeve notes) to make a spontaneous album.
Indeed Finisterre features a few nods conscious or otherwise to previous pop history – NatwestBarclaysMidlandsLloyds (an early Manics song), The Boys are Back In Town, and Nothing’s Going to Stop Us Now all feature somewhere in the lyrics. This is not to say that Saint Etienne suffer as a result of wearing influences and knowledge like pretentious badges on their sleeves this time around. In fact they may well have made one of their most convincing albums to date.
Opening up with Action, a fantastic little gem that has seemingly been plucked from Clubland circa ’92, Finisterre announces itself as an album with a serious intent, but a mischievous grin on its face at the same time.
Neatly side stepping the dodgy rhyming of Amateur finds us at the instrumental Language Lab, where Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs exploit mellotrons, string sections, and a lightly strummed guitar to create a beautiful chilled out lounge lizard tune.
The stand out track on Finisterre is the collaboration with Wildflower, Soft Like Me. Another laid back coffee shop tune, but this time Sarah Cracknell’s vocals really hold up, and melt like butter all over the chorus. There’s a strong possibility that Saint Etienne could score a hit with this tune, as it echoes around your head in the same way that this album echoes its scores of influences.
Finishing off the album is title track Finisterre, a quirky tune, part soundscape, part pop art poem. It hints at directions as yet untapped by Saint Etienne – such as I Believe In Electrelane – but it also tells you all you need to know about them in one simple line: “I believe in Donovan over Dylan.”
A good album then, as pop as an explosion at a Cola factory, but literate enough to be a musicologist’s dream come true.