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Saint Etienne Tiger Bay Review

Album. Released 1994.  

BBC Review

Saint Etienne's third, and best album...

Chris Jones 2007

There was a time in the mid-90s when it seemed that the pop world was going to be devoured by those people who made their living out of writing about it. Suddenly bands like the High Llamas were making pithy pastiches of their favourite records, all helmed by writers who not only knew how to make these records but how to contextualise them as well. Also in on this post modern trip was Saint Etienne, the brainchild of Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs.

Initially cooler as a concept than as an actual audio experience, Saint Etienne made a virtue of combining their (rather mundane) post-Acid House beats with suitably knowing snatches of film dialogue, German motorik iciness and the pristine voice of Sarah Cracknell. Their first two albums (Foxbase Alpha and So Tough) were gratefully lapped up by their fans but failed to really nail the grandeur of their ambitions. Tiger Bay was a different beast entirely.

Here the band managed to blend in a far more adventurous palette of musical colours. Orchestral folk music enters the picture (on "Former Lover"and "Marble Lions") and there's even a traditional song in the form of "Western Wind". Even the Kraftwerk-like "Like A Motorway" manages to slip in a distinctly pastoral air. Of course, none of this would have really worked in the context of their faux-sixties disco schtick, were it not for the fact that by now the band seemed to be able to churn out hook after hook.

Pointlessly reissued with extra tracks and a different running order, Tiger Bay suffered from a distinct lack of love from both label and public. It deserved far better as, in its original form, it belongs to that rare breed of 'perfect' albums.

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