St. Etienne, Good Humor (Subpop)

Posted December 31st, 1998 by admin

St. Etienne
Good Humor
By: Kerry Mitchell

Well, Sarah and the guys are back, finally! From what I understand this album has been available in England for some time now on the Warner Bros. Label. I suppose Warner Bros was hesitant (?) to release it in the states, so they pawned it off on a certain pseudo independent northeastern US label of which they happen to own 49%. Thankfully, the label swapping hasn’t even made a dent in St. Etienne’s flawless sound.

I’ve always referred to St Etienne’s sound as “retro futurism,” which isn’t really as much a label as it is a feeling or mood. (vaguely similar to what Pizzicato Five evoke from time to time) In the liner notes, Author Douglas Coupland seems to capture the feeling more accurately when he refers to their sound as “a sound that is both utterly metropolitan and effortlessly clean” I can just imagine douglas driving through the city of Vancouver, his car floating on the sugary sweet sound pouring from his radio as he sings along with the chanteuse at the top of his lungs. In any case, however you describe it or define it, there is not much questioning it. Sarah’s voice glides over gorgeous arrangements while her lyrics tug at your heart and soul in way that is familiar, yet not completely cliche. Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs (and friends) are all over the place musically, mixing in trumpets, klangspiel, synthesizers, drums and guitars creating the lush and occasionally danceable sound that is at once retro and yet unlike any other sound I’ve heard. Compared with earlier releases, the gang has really evolved their sound allowing the early work to form a solid base while allowing the music to wander in all directions on Good Humor.

This disc should be welcomed with open arms by fans and it should also prove to be a great introduction to those unfamiliar with this delightful band. Regardless of their future fame, I think they have definitely hit a nerve with this release and should garner praise from critics the world over. Perhaps St. Etienne’s time has come. Or perhaps the modern world has finally caught up with them.

*Yet another great thing about this album is that in the states it comes with a free bonus cd, which I suppose is the record label’s way of apologizing for the delay and it guarantees that the die hard fans that bought the import will also buy the domestic release. In any case, the bonus cd, entitled ‘Fairfax High” compiles previously unreleased songs which definitely makes up for the long wait.

Tags: review