Released in Sptember 1991, Foxbase Alpha is the debut album from English pop group Saint Etienne - comprised of music journalists Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, and photogenic blonde singer Sarah Cracknell. I would humbly venture that it is by far their best record, and required listening for anyone who enjoys summery, blissed out pop music.
Tracklisting and comments -
1. This Is Radio Etienne - Intro track, comprising a snippet from a French football radio programme. As the commentator mentions Saint Etienne (the French football club), the track cuts to -
2. Only Love Can Break Your Heart - debut single, a cover version of the old Neil Young standby. The Etienne version features high quality early-90s baggy beats, a great piano riff, and chunky Led Zeppelin-esque drum fills.
3. Wilson - laughable post-acid drug reference-a-thon. A fruity English lady repeatedly asks "would you like some sweets Willy?", while loops of a child and an old man spout nonsense, and a voice in the background croaks "LSD" at regular intervals. Silly.
4. Carnt Sleep - dub (non-)ballad. No tune to speak of, but very listenable. Lazy pigeon-holing requires me to describe this as trip-hoppy, although that particular genre hadn't been officially invented in 1991. Nonetheless, Carnt Sleep wouldn't sound out of place on Blue Lines (somewhere to wards the end, probably).
5. Girl VII - A superb change of pace, featuring a balearic beat, plenty of swirly strings, and a superb, Vogue-esque globetrotting monologue from Cracknell - "Gospel Oak, Sao Paolo, Boston Manor, Costa Rica/Arnos Grove, Sacramento, Tufnell Park...". The Et. at their best.
6. Spring - Joyful, bouncy pop tune, with a dash of Northern Soul and a beautifully cooed vocal from Cracknell. Very easy listening.
7. She's The One - Off-kilter dancefloor stomper, which turns into a chilled-out anthem halfway through. Another classic.
8. People Get Real - May be the best ambient pop song ever made. You can also dance to it.
9. Stoned To Say The Least - Begins with Richard Whiteley introducing "today's Countdown conundrum", then turns into a laid-back dubby instrumental. Good, but not great.
10. Nothing Can Stop Us - Straight up, balls out, shameless pop anthem. This was the second single to be taken from the album, and the most heavily Northern Soul influenced track as well.
11. Etienne Gonna Die - A short clip from a poker film, featuring an argument between two card players. I don't know which film it's from, but it's not The Cincinnati Kid.
12. London Belongs To Me - Sleepy, twee ballad. Quite superb, not least because it namechecks long-forgotten contemporaries World Of Twist.
13. Kiss And Make Up - A remixed version was released as a third single. The album version is soporific, which is a bad thing considering it's a dance track.
14. Like The Swallow - Starts with a drawn out, discordant introduction, that sounds a lot like This Mortal Coil, and ends with a pounding baggy drumbeat and an almost off-hand vocal from Sarah C. Sounds like it shouldn't work, but somehow they pull it off.
15. Dilworth's Theme - Nothing more than a verse from Cracknell, backed by a heavily distorted piano. Short but sweet.