Jan – Feb 2006

Tales From Turnpike House
3 stars

In their sixteenth year, London aesthetes search for grit, find only beauty

For all their worldly sophisto-pop airs, Saint Etienne have always been a London band, as steeped in local color as the Kinks, the Clash or the Streets.  The difference is that these electro aesthetes envision their hometown not as a bustling metropolis but as a serene utopia, suspended in time or a parallel universe.  The trio’s latest inches into the grimy real world, hanging out in a Londo housing project for a full 24 hours, from milk delivery to last orders.  The results are predictably gorgeous.  “Side Streets” dispels fears of back-alley muggings with Beach Boys harmonies; “Stars Above Us” finds disco heaven in a rooftop sunset.  Not much happens, which seems to be the point:  In these vivid snapshots of daily life, the mundane and the magical are one and the same.