Surely there are few countries in the world that enjoy looking at themselves through the past’s flattering lense more than Britain. At their beginning Saint Etienne’s premise was also in creating a patchwork sonic quilt of modernity and nostalgia, working in echoes of ephemeral sixties kitsch into their superior electronic pop.
It was a magpie approach which fell out of fashion eventually and if I’ve Been Trying To Tell You is the trio’s first sample based album since 1993’s So Tough it’s as much by necessity as design; for the first time Sarah Cracknell, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs recorded in separate locations, with Cracknell laying down vocals in her son’s bedroom.
What results is far less song-led than their previous outing Home Counties, as instead snippets of other people’s (Including tracks by Natalie Imbruglia and the less well remembered Honeyz) are deliberately morphed and stretched to the point of being unrecognizable. The idea is that these tunes examine memories of the brief period of relative calm in people’s lives between the rise of New Labour and 9/11 and although whilst obvious links are shady, Penlop, Blue Kite and Fonteyn each evoke different aspects of the band’s musical history. Did we never have it so good? wisely, I’ve Been Trying To Tell You doesn’t try to answer the question it poses.
You can read the full review here.