Saint Etienne‘s fourth album – at least as far as their original canon is concerned – was Good Humor, the American-flavored (ha) and distinctly less electronic comeback that saw their first full-length album release in the UK for over four years.
It opens with the metallic beats and gentle electronic piano of Wood Cabin, very much a love song for hermits, before the sweetly piano-driven introduction to Sylvie. This was an entirely respectable number 12 UK hit a couple of months ahead of the album’s release, but you have to wonder if that didn’t owe a lot to the Trouser Enthusiasts‘ brilliant dance interpretation which led the UK single release. In its album form, it still feels somewhat subdued, but it also would never have hit the charts at all if it hadn’t been quite such a catchy song.
With Saint Etienne, the sweet 1960s style pop is never far away, so Split Screen is a very welcome track that would make a great accompaniment to an English weekend country getaway. Apparently they chose the title Good Humor as a reaction to continually being told they sounded English. Well, I’m sorry, but you still do.
Many of the tracks on this album contain obscure references in their titles, so in case you can’t quite remember which one Mr. Donut is, it’s the one about international travel and duty free. It’s a good song, as is Goodnight Jack, which follows, although it hints slightly at being another epic like Avenue, which is only a slight disappointment when it tails off after four and a half minutes.
Next comes the aborted third single Lose That Girl, intended for release in September 1998 with another Trouser Enthusiasts remix. I think this might be my favourite track on here – it’s definitely one of the catchiest. That this never had the chances to reach the higher ends of the chart is a real shame.
The Bad Photographer did, and didn’t perform particularly well unfortunately. That is a shame – it’s another great pop song, although it’s probably fair to say that it’s not quite as great as Lose That Girl or Sylvie. Been So Long and Postman follow, always with the great, catchy 1960s pop.
Erica America has always resonated somewhat with me, having moved to the US a few years ago and having immediately met more than one person called Erica, who of course each immediately earned the same nickname. Sung by an American, this might just work as a convincing US pop song. It would just need a bit more of a country feel and a few more hip hop beats. Maybe a rap, who knows. It’s another great song, anyway.
For me, this was the first album where Saint Etienne really got everything right. Previous albums had been good – some of them had been great – but they had all been a little bit inconsistent in one way or another, whereas Good Humor really just has all the right pop ingredients.
Dutch TV is arguably one of the weaker tracks on here, but not by a lot – the drifting organ and gentle drums complement Sarah Cracknell‘s voice perfectly, and it’s another catchy track. It’s also the closing track, which seems to come much too soon at this point.
If you can find the double CD deluxe edition, go for that one. At the time of writing, I could only see this single CD reissue, which should work perfectly well too.