Saint Etienne, 'Tales From Turnpike House' (Savoy Jazz)

Tales From Turnpike House
Critical Mass
Label: Savoy Jazz

by Michaelangelo Matos

A poster on the online message board I Love Music once posited that Saint Etienne were England's answer to Beastie Boys. The superficial similarities are there -- both trios are culture junkies with massive record crates and music critics among their ranks. Yet there's a deeper connection: The New York hip-hop crew and the London pop savants are pure products of their respective cities; check the Beasties' 2005 anthem "Open Letter to NYC" and Etienne's 2002 album, Finisterre, named for a shipping forecast they grew up listening to in England. After mid-career flirtations with other locales -- the Beasties' L.A.-based Check Your Head and Etienne's Sweden-sweetened Good Humor -- both returned home with restored native pride.

And Etienne still know their hometown. Tales From Turnpike House is a loose concept album about 24 hours in a London apartment complex, but unlike the Streets -- who captured a day in the life of one geezer -- Pete Wiggs, Bob Stanley, and satin-voiced frontwoman Sarah Cracknell pull together various miniatures to create a mosaic of the city. A would-be macho man gets infatuated with his neighbor on "Oh My," as a mock amp-kicking guitar riff and gated drums evoke Rick Rubin's early Beasties production. The veteran dairy middle manager of "Milk Bottle Symphony" is another hero in the series of aural mini-movies that Etienne have been making since 1993's "Avenue"; the song comes complete with sound effects and changes in orchestration to guide us from scene to scene. Like much of Turnpike House, it's so London-specific that it almost requires an England-to-English translation for us Yanks; for starters, Unigate is a milk company. But however localized their lyrics, Saint Etienne's music is its own reference point. From the relaxed, expansive Eurodisco of "Stars Above Us" to the squelchy bass-driven "I'm Falling," it needs no translation.

SEE ALSO: Black Box Recorder, The Facts of Life (Jetset, 2000)



00:00 00:00 No Song Selected More info
00:00 00:00
Now Playing
  • 1 Brandy Zdan — More of a Man " 03:33
  • 2 Tiësto & KSHMR — Secrets " 04:28
  • 3 Mercies — Every Echo " 00:00
  • 4 Jimmy Whispers — Heart Don't Know " 02:32
  • 5 GRiZ — For The Love " 04:41
  • 6 King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard — God Is in the Rhythm " 03:46
  • 7 FlatbushZOMBiES — Did U Ever Think feat. Joey BadA$$ & Issa Gold " 05:02

SPIN is a member of SPIN Music Group, a division of BUZZMEDIA