Saint Etienne Foxbase Beta Review

Released 2009.  

BBC Review

You may’ve thought it couldn’t have got any better. You’re wrong – it just has.

Ian Wade 2009

2009 has been a bit of a bonanza year for the Saint Etienne fan. What with a Best Of (London Conversations), deluxe editions of Foxbase Alpha, The Sound of Water and So Tough, the rarities fest that was Continental, the album live shows and Subbuteo collectables, you either require a very big love and deep pockets for such an onslaught of product, or are just not that interested in anything else that 2009 has had to offer.

To add to that trolley dash of wonder, along comes Foxbase Beta – a remix-cum-update-cum-re-upholstering of their 1991 debut, with Richard X at the controls. He’s been given free reign to do what he fancies with the album, revisiting all the DATs, cassettes, floppy discs and other storage solutions of the time to put a little oomph into the original. Neither a remaster nor a complete overhaul – the tracks remain in same order and he’s kept pretty much to the same length – Beta sees proceedings spruced up and reinvigorated, future-proofing an album that was very much of its time in October 1991.

Where needed Richard enlists some additional help – Sarah Cracknell has been brought in to update certain vocal parts that have disintegrated due to elderly technology – and has found certain elements in amongst the source material that are brought forward to boost this version significantly. Spring becomes even more of a lost soul classic; Like the Swallow brings a children’s choir into the mix, thus making it utterly rapturous; and singles Only Love Can Break Your Heart and Nothing Can Stop Us Now sound like the million-sellers from a parallel dimension that you always imagined they should be.

There’s also a track-by-track interview disc, wherein Richard interviews Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs about the influences, samples and ideas that went into the album, with surprising results such as OMD, Dead Can Dance, Harold Wilson and Brian Cant all surfacing.

If it was released as brand new today, this would be the best album of 2009. Seriously. You may’ve thought it couldn’t have got any better. You’re wrong – it just has. Amazing.

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