Spend a day at Saint Etienne's 'Turnpike House'
Scripps Howard News Service

"TALES FROM TURNPIKE HOUSE," Saint Etienne (Savoy Jazz)
 Saint Etienne tackles a "day in the life" concept for its new "Tales From Turnpike House," and even if the revelations are few in the sunup-to-lights-out story of an apartment building on the outskirts of London, the illustrations by Lora Findlay on the insert are crafty.

The London-based, sophisticated pop trio of vocalist Sarah Cracknell and instrumentalists Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs was in some ways beat to the punch by the sophisticated pop trio Ivy, who put out "Apartment Life" about a decade ago. Yet both releases play loose with the theme, so there's not much overlap apart from the stylishness of the two acts.

Sticking with its tradition, Saint Etienne weaves girl-group, 1960s-style pop with electronica and jazz on "Tales From Turnpike House." Escorted by acoustic guitar and breezy backing vocals, Cracknell sashays out on opening cut "Side Streets" before dovetailing into the synthetic flicker of "A Good Thing."

The release rolls by easily, shrugging off spells of vagueness and affectation to deliver a steadily pleasant listening experience, if not a consistently memorable one.

Techno-heads will zero in on the crinkling dark turns of "Lightning Strikes Twice" and the bright bounce of "I'm Falling" _ both cuts primed for remix. Meanwhile, those who prefer the trio's more classic-pop structures will likely fall for the illusory infectiousness of "Stars Above Us" and the swarming, Beach Boys-esque harmonies of closer "Goodnight."
 Rating (five possible): 3-1/2