By Saint Etienne
Oh, dear, they used to be rather good. I had to force myself to read the script that came with this album. A more pretentious and tedious promo biography I hope never to see.
Lead track, "Action" has lovely, swirling and very expensive sounding synths, but it is just boring. There is little passion or extremity anywhere on this album. It is soft and cuddly, with a few clever-clever production tricks thrown in. They seem to have no real issues in their lives and be very comfortable within themselves. A great personal state to aspire to, but this rarely inspires great music.
"Amateur" may be very clever self-parody, far too clever for your humble reviewer. Truly amateur, I can only guess the working title must have been "A Twelve Year Old's Hastily Slapped Down Rhyming Couplets". Lets face it, Sarah Cracknell may have a generally pleasant vocal tone, but she is so limited by her four note range and lung power that an 80 year old asthmatic would laugh at. The slushy lines "Could he be a lover/could he be a friend" in "Stop And Think It Over" show what middle of the road drivel Saint Etienne are truly capable of.
There is ridiculous pseudo-philosophy with the "Shakespearean style" spoken samples between every song - Not big and not clever, just very, very irritating.
Finally, on Track 7 Saint Etienne begin to live up to their legacy. "Shower Scene" has a great vocal melody and music reminiscent of early '90's house and this track really makes you want to dance. It captures the old magic of their best work, perhaps even exceeds it. They should have released this as the single, then burnt the masters of the album.
The promo letter hints that this may be the "Best album of their career". It is in fact their worst.