"Finisterre" (Mantra Recordings)
After over a decade embracing pop precision, retro obscurity and plain old fashioned fucking around, Saint Etienne have come almost full circle. The club-pop masters have rediscovered their origins and have created an album of intelligent, catchy and upbeat, head nodding choons. On Finisterre, Sarah Cracknell and co. have decided to make a record awash with pop hooks, but barbed with lyrical sideswipes and little intellectual/nonsense interludes courtesy of actor Michael Jayston. The songs are of a consistently high standard and mirror those lords of camp electro pop, The Pet Shop Boys, on many occasions. There are enough inventive twists to keep the listener coming back for many future listens and you can almost see the consumerist TV nightmare that any of the more summery tunes will soundtrack, as people with massive inferiority complexes try on outfit after outfit, to boost their deflated sense of worth.
There are many reasons to like this album, but an equal amount of reasons to dislike it and there in lies the problem. There is no "love" or "hate" with Finisterre, it's too damn polite, in an English "make no fuss" way. When female MC Wildflower is employed to add something to Soft Like Me she sounds far too spirited for the almost wishy-washy accompaniment. Jayston's spoken sections come across as pretentious, after the initial humour of the first few listens and quickly become irritating.
If only they'd listened to their hearts and not their art, then perhaps we would have a classic Etienne album on our hands and not an affected document of style, which could have meant so much more. 6/10
Reviewed By Mark Mason
8th of October 2002
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