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Saint Etienne Foxbase Alpha: Deluxe Edition Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

FBA now seems like a faltering first step

Jerome Blakeney 2009

On the verge of recreating this, their 1991 debut, live on stage, Saint Etienne find Universal giving their earliest works the 'deluxe' treatment: all bells, whistles and extra tracks, demos, dvds and what have you. Marvellous. But does Foxbase Alpha stand such scrutiny. The answer is a very palpable 'maybe'.

The tentative verdict arises from such tentative material on offer. Still to really find their feet as arch pop stylists, easy in their ability to nick the choicest obscurities and seamlessly meld them with their own knowing songcraft, FBA sees the band taking the contemporary tropes of house music and emerging with a hybrid that promised a little more than it delivered.

One of the reasons for this was the fact that the band had still to find its focus in lead singer Sarah Cracknell, who was yet to become a full-time member. As a result the biggest hit on offer here; Neil Young's Only Love Can Break Your Heart is sung, rather flatly, by Moira Lambert. Elsewhere there are traces of dub (Carnt Sleep) and, in Nothing Can Stop Us, a hefty slice of 60s pop in the shape of a Dusty sample.

It's by no means a failure, but with historical hindsight and the weight of a fine back catalogue to lean on FBA now seems like a faltering first step from the running, jumping creature that the band was about to blossom into.

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