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Saint Etienne are a pop group from London who are sometimes described as making "indie dance" music. The band was founded in 1991 by ex-music journalists Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, who named it after a French football team, and they originally had rotating guest singers until Sarah Cracknell joined them permanently, midway through production of their first album.

Their most famous single is their first, a cover of the Neil Young song "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" – which was not sung by Sarah, ironically given that she is generally considered the Face of the Band otherwise.

Most of their music can accurately be described as a love song dedicated to London, the city in which the band is based.

An incomplete discography:

  • Foxbase Alpha (1991)
  • So Tough (1993)
  • Tiger Bay (1994)
  • Good Humor (1998)
  • Sound of Water (2000)
  • Finisterre (2002)
  • Tales from Turnpike House (2005)
  • Words and Music by Saint Etienne (2012)

Tropes

  • Age Progression Song: "Over The Border"
  • Concept Album: Tales from Turnpike House, which features various stories about the residents in a neighbourhood somewhere in London. Also Words and Music by Saint Etienne is about music fandom.
  • The Cover Changes... Almost Everything, Actually: "I'm Too Sexy". The story goes that when they got into the studio to record the song, they couldn't remember how it goes, so they made it up on the spot.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: "People Get Real" includes a jet engine (Heavenly Records boss Jeff Barrett is credited with "playing" it). Given that it appears prominently in the middle eight, it's effectively the song's lead solo.
  • Fourth Ranger: Long-serving backing singer Debsey Wykes.
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: the repeated, distorted refrain in "Girl VII". Producer Ian Catt and remixer Richard X may be the only people outside the band who know for sure what it says - and Pete Wiggs claims he's forgotten.
  • Listing Cities: In one song on Foxbase Alpha entitled Girl VII, Sarah starts listing London neighbourhoods and a few other cities.
  • Murder Ballad: "Like A Motorway"
  • One of Us: All of them are music nerds, but Bob especially (not surprising when you consider his original career was as a music journalist).
  • Retraux: They like to play with this in both the music and its packaging.
  • Self-Demonstrating Song: About half way through "California Snow Story", Sarah says "I think I'll just let the music play", and that's exactly what happens, as the second half is entirely instrumental.
  • Self-Deprecation: their sleevenotes do this a lot.
  • Shout-Out: Their songs are so packed with these, it took the crowdsourcing power of the internet to decipher the dense web of references.
  • Signature Song: Fairly successfully averted by dint of "resting" songs from their live set when they threaten to become this. "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" is probably their most recognisable song, thanks to being included on countless compilations.
  • Song of Song Titles: "Popular"
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Pete Wiggs on "I'm Too Sexy".
  • With Lyrics: The previously instrumental "Stoned To Say The Least" gained lyrics twenty years later.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "Hobart Paving" among others.
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