Horsham’s Bob Stanley and Croydon’s Pete Wiggs formed Saint Etienne in 1990.
They sang of sweet dreams from the suburbs, blending the sounds of disco, Motown and girl group blues with spacious club rhythms to create a music so timeless that it seemed to beat with the pulse of past, present and future.
Their debut single, a dubby reinvention of Neil Young‘s Only Love Can Break Your Heart, became an underground hit, receiving much airplay in nightclubs across England.
The song still leaps from the speakers like a statement of intent over two decades later.
A second single, Let’s Kiss and Make Up, was a cover of a song by indie pop group Field Mice, and featured vocals by Donna Savage of a New Zealand band called Dead Famous People.
Nothing Can Stop Us (1991) was the first single sung by Chelmsford’s Sarah Cracknell (the daughter of one of Stanley Kubrick’s assistant film directors). Blonde, beautiful and lazy-eyed – like indie’s very own Kate Moss or a wonky Grace Kelly – her girlish vocals became a signature of the group’s sound.
The single was followed by their debut album, Fox Base Alpha (1991). The title was taken from an in-joke between Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs for a room full of attractive women, and the album was swathed with warm pop references: the swirling strings and girlish vocals of Spring invoke The Ronettes, while Girl VII‘s stoic listing of London Underground stations recalled Peter Cook’s turn in the classic Sixties film, Bedazzled (1967).
The wistful, loved-up cover of Neil Young‘s Only Love Can Break Your Heart was a club classic, paving the way for the likes of The Chemical Brothers, while Nothing’s Going To Stop Us drove a sophisticated Rolls-Royce through clubland, proving there was more to dance than disco.
Preceded by the single You’re In A Bad Way, Saint Etienne’s second album was So Tough (1993). Three further singles followed – Who Do You Think You Are?, Hobart Paving and I Was Born On Christmas Day. All charted well.
Third album, Tiger Bay (1994) was greeted with mixed reviews and, after a 1995 singles compilation, Saint Etienne took an extended break.
Sarah Cracknell pursued a solo project, releasing the single Anymore (1996). Stanley and Wiggs busied themselves with record label business.
A new studio album (Good Humor) appeared in 1998 and the trio returned in 1999 with an EP entitled Places To Visit. The Sound Of Water LP was released in 2000.
After a successful tour of the USA in support of Sound Of Water the group issued Interlude (2001), a collection of new tracks, instrumentals and B-sides. They followed it up with Finisterre (2002) and Tales From Turnpike House (2005).
Following a seven-year break, the band resurfaced in 2012 with the superb Words and Music by Saint Etienne.