Last fall, Saint Etienne, the longtime purveyor of electronic-influenced euro pop dating back to the early 1990s, gave us their tenth studio album, I’ve Been Trying to Tell You. I picked up the Rough Trade Exclusive on powder blue wax.
Let’s take a look inside.
Unboxing the Rough Trade Exclusive
There are a few distinct differences between the Rough Trade Exclusive and other versions of this album. First, there’s the standard: color vinyl. Beyond that, the Rough Trade Exclusives both come with a bonus Remix EP containing three songs. (The Rough Trade edits include this vinyl version and a CD as well.)
The vinyl version of I’ve Been Trying to Tell You is limited to 2,000 pressings and pressed on a cool powder blue wax. Housed within the outer sleeve is a highly detailed, full color inner with photos and liner notes.
I’m a bit bummed my copy came with a split along the top center, but it seems to have shipped from the UK store, so I’m not complaining too much.
Here’s my vinyl unboxing and album review video:
But what about the music? That’s next…
Saint Etienne’s Tenth Studio Album
I’ve Been Trying to Tell You is a far cry from Fox Base Alpha (1991) or even their more recent albums like Words and Music by Saint Etienne (2012). For the most part, gone are the upbeat pop tracks, Sarah Cracknell’s hoppy vocals, and dance beats fit for a European disco.
Instead we are hit with mellow downbeats and consistently cool rhythms. The songs are slow and dreamy… atmospheric almost! A change this dramatic is not unlike that I looked at the other week with Slowdive’s Pygmalion.
If it sounds nostalgic, that’s with purpose, on purpose. With a setting between 1997 and 2001 (formative years for me as I exited high school and entered college), the record samples pop songs of the era and pulls in related field recordings.
Components of this short can be seen on the music video for “Pond House,” embedded above.
My Take on I’ve Been Trying to Tell You
The album is quite the departure, and Saint Etienne purists may balk at not receiving the hook-filled, upbeat dance tracks from yesteryear.
I, on the other hand, don’t mind. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as — at my core — I’m more an appreciator than a true critic. So I see merit and value here where longtime fans may find discredit and distaste.
Songs like the aforementioned “Pond House” are excellent, as is the dreamy opener “Music Again.”
Flip the record over and take a listen to “Penlop” and you’ll be hit with a familiar melody. I can’t quite pinpoint it, but I’ve heard it before and can almost pull out the words to the song it reminds me of. It’s not what the band samples, though, which is “Joy” by The Lightning Seeds.
Take a listen and let me know if you recognize the song in the comments.
I can enjoy a downtempo album, and I dig the more atmospheric qualities of I’ve Been Trying to Tell You. The music is great and memorable, and the band has fully accomplished the feat of creating an album reminiscent of youthful summers in the late 1990s.
And, relating to the Rough Trade exclusive, it’s nice to see an exclusive that actually includes something OTHER than just a new color of wax. I haven’t dug into the remix EP yet, but I’m excited to hear how the songs were reworked!