Saturday, March 9, 2013

so tough

Saint Etienne achieved their greatest success with the cut and paste travelogue, diverse musical textures, and kitchy dialogue of this cerebral and stylish dancefloor manifesto. 'So Tough' was released more than a year after their debut 'Foxbase Alpha'.   The sessions featured Bob Stanley on Prophet 5, Roland Jupiter, handclaps, and spriguns of tolgus; Pete Wiggs on Rogue Moog, emax sampler, basso profundo, and polk salad; and Sarah Cracknell on vocals, Sri Lanka, and macca keyring; with Ian Catt on guitar, keyboard programming, and whistling jack; Q-Tee doing a vocal on "Calico"; and Cajun Queen playing bass guitar on "Calico". Stanley reveals:    "The main thing was, we had always used Ian Catt's studio but he and his sleeping partner had split everything down the middle. They even shared a car – I can't imagine why – but Ian kept the car, and the other bloke got all of the studio. Anyway, we ended up recording it at a place called RMS, which was right next to Selhurst Park. And it smelt of alsatians! One was called Diesel. It was an old hippy studio, so that was weird, recording a whole album in a place we weren't used to...It ended up sounding so British [because] we couldn't clear any of the bloody American samples, because American lawyers are such bastards...When Ian rebuilt the studio, he got a bigger desk, and from that point on, I wasn't as hands on. The first album was done on an eight track, which was a piece of cake to get your head around. We were throwing reverbs and echoes on and knew how to operate it...This time we'd give him ideas but were more reliant on Ian to do it. So that made quite a difference. Not in a bad way, but we could try to be more adventurous and test his engineering ability. There is tons more reverb and echo on So Tough than the first album, it's ridiculous. It sounds like it was recorded at the bottom of a well!...I really like it. I think because the first album had done quite well, we were confident it would do OK. We thought: 'We are going to have proper hits and be on Top Of The Pops.' We were quite cocky. We thought we were good enough to do that."

The songs are punctuated by snippits of sampled dialogue from films. Stanley explains:     "That was because, like with the first album, we really liked the Monkees' 'Head' soundtrack and 'The Who Sell Out'. A lot of the hip hop records out at the time had sort of skits between the tracks. They were all clips of dialogue that we liked. It's funny, it ended up sounding so British – and the only reason for that was that we couldn't clear any of the bloody American samples, because American lawyers are such bastards. The first album we got away with it by not asking anyone, the second, because Warner Bros were putting it out in America, we had to clear absolutely everything – including the Rush sample. They were nice, but they were Canadian – maybe it's easier for them. It wasn't intentional, but it cemented out perceived Englishness ... Maybe we were being too clever for our own good, because people kept saying we sounded like the Beach Boys. So we thought we'd be transparent and nick one of their album titles. Then, the NMEsaid, they've nicked the title off the Pet Shop Boys's So Hard. We thought, we're wasting our time here."

'So Tough' became their highest charting album, peaking at number seven on the UK album chart. Cracknell considers:    "Although the reviews always say 'quintessentially British', there are always references to other places in other countries. They're all imaginary really, because most of the places we write about we've never been to. So yeah, it's more of a travelogue. I think we felt that out of all our albums, 'So Tough' was the most travelogue."

"Mario's Cafe"


"Avenue" Stanley: "That was us thinking that we were going to make a seven-minute single that would blow people's minds. That was the aim, anyway. I can't actually imagine doing that now, we were very cocky." The single went to number forty in the UK. 

"You're in a Bad Way" made it to number twelve in the UK.

"Conchita Martinez"

"Join Our Club" was released as a single almost a year before the album. 

"Archway People"

'So Tough' 
full album:

All songs written and composed by Stanley, Wiggs; except where indicated. 

1. "Mario's Cafe"     4:38
2. "Railway Jam"     4:14
3. "Date With Spelman"     0:18
4. "Calico"   Stanley, Wiggs, Mais 5:12
5. "Avenue"   Catt, Cracknell, Stanley, Wiggs 7:40
6. "You're in a Bad Way" Cracknell, Stanley, Wiggs 2:43
7. "Memo to Pricey"     0:23
8. "Hobart Paving" 5:03
9. "Leafhound"     4:05
10. "Clock Milk"     0:14
11. "Conchita Martinez"     4:02
12. "No Rainbows for Me"     3:56
13. "Here Come Clown Feet"     0:22
14. "Junk the Morgue"     5:12
15. "Who Do You Think You Are?"    3:52
16. "Chicken Soup"     0:33
17. "Join Our Club"          3:22

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