Saint Etienne: Home Counties review – finding Arcadia in the Brexit heartlands


Saint Etienne’s latest musical psychogeographic survey is of the UK’s southern counties, so what do this ever-cosmopolitan band make of the Brexit heartlands? Their Ray Davies-style vision of a green and pleasant “sweet Arcadia”, finding poetry in Seasalter and Peacehaven, is arguably close to Ukip territory; they’re not helped by the harpsichords and girl-group pastiches which, while knowing, are also twee. In the past their sampling has been atmospheric, but the snatches of Ken Bruce and Sports Report here are self-parodic.

However, the shade thrown at a Toby Carvery on Whyteleafe shows them to still be aesthetes after all, and there are strong songs here: Something New wafts like a sunlit net curtain, and you can almost smell the Tupperware and crudites amid the disco party of Dive. Throughout it all, Sarah Cracknell’s voice – coolly observational with a hint of gossip – remains a uniquely beautiful sound in British pop.


Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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