It seems to me that Sarah Cracknell will never be happy with her 1997 solo album Lipslide. To start with, the original release back in 1997 contained 12 tracks. Then the Swedish version, also 1997, added an extra one. Then the Japanese release, again in 1997, had a slightly over-the-top 17. Then the US version (2000) was back down to 12 again, but a different 12 from the original ones.
This new reissue now contains just 11 tracks, which are in a different order (and in one case is a different version) from the original release. To make things all the more complicated, the artwork this time around is from the 2000 version, rather than the original (admittedly less good) 1997 versions.
But let’s assume that this is now the definitive version of the album. It now opens with Ready or Not, a pleasant pop ballad which wouldn’t have been entirely out of place in any decade, although it does sound a little dated now, over a decade and a half after the album’s original release.
Then comes Home, which is and always was one of Lipslide‘s weaker tracks, although the original album version was rather different from this one. You may find yourself pining for a bit of Only Love Can Break Your Heart during this track – it really isn’t particularly exciting.
Lipslide was released, originally, during a break between Saint Etienne albums, which must have seemed a good opportunity for Cracknell to revive her solo career (Coastal Town had originally been released back in 1987, before she ever joined Saint Etienne). On that level it succeeds – it may not be quite up to the level of pure pop perfection maintained by the group’s full albums, but it certainly isn’t bad. It wasn’t entirely commercially successful, selling largely to a subset of the group’s fan-base, but that’s perhaps not the end of the world.
Coastal Town, written by someone called Mick Bund back in the 1980s, makes for a nice change. It’s extremely dated, and not necessarily in a good way, but that’s nobody’s fault – it is, at least, an up-tempo catchy pop song which gives the first half of this album a much-needed boost. Then comes Desert Baby, which is still catchy, but lacks the punch of its predecessor.
The middle pair of tracks are the best of the bunch – first the lead single Anymore, which like the rest of the album does now sound a little stuck in the 1990s. But it was a top forty single (just) and rightly so – it’s a good song, and one of the few on here which are up to the Saint Etienne pop standard (which should probably be an official seal of approval).
How Far is another of these, and boasts a particularly strong chorus as well as a great synth line. It was on the original UK album, but didn’t make the cut for the US version, so it’s good to see it back.
Goldie is next, nearly the second single (except in Sweden, where they got Desert Baby instead). It’s a nice song; not exactly groundbreaking, but an extremely pleasant listen nonetheless. It feels as though it would have sounded great on the radio on a late summer day in the 1990s.
Taxi was another track which got missed off the American version; this time perhaps justifiably so – it’s a bit 90s disco in style, which makes for a fun diversion, but the actual song is a little lacking to say the least. Then an enormous 90s bass line turns up for Taking Off for France, another of the four US omissions, of which three made it back this time around. It’s not an entirely exciting song, but for all of its weaknesses it does have that enormous bass line, which makes up for a lot.
If You Leave Me is another good song, a little bit Motown in sound, and it does let Cracknell try taking her voice to places she might not have visited with her Saint Etienne hat – and that’s the penultimate track already. Finally we get Can’t Stop Now, which isn’t a great closing track (the US version flipped these two around, which worked better). The crazy thing is that if the track listing had been the same every time, you wouldn’t be tempted to make these kinds of comparisons.
It’s not that I mind so much about the confusion between all the different versions, although it’s not really a very nice way to treat your fans, but worst of all, she forgot to include several tracks on this reissue. The version I’d been considering “definitive” up to now, the 2000 US release, now includes no fewer than three completely unique tracks.
Frankly, I wish someone would tell Sarah to stop fiddling with her album. She’ll break it if she’s not careful. Perhaps she already has. On the plus side you do now get a bonus disc of remixes and demo versions, which makes up for some of the omissions.
The most recent reissue of Lipslide can still be found through all the usual outlets, such as this one.