Rhythm & Views

Saint Etienne

Tales from Turnpike House is St. Etienne's eighth full-length, and all of their breezy, British '60s pop and contemporary dance elements are present and accounted for--loungey flutes, ba-da-da-da-ba-bas and shuffling drum beats--but when Cracknell sings in "Side Streets" that she has "Features I quite like and don't mind keeping," it gives the false hope that the record will be clever and catchy throughout. It's not. At 13 songs, with at least four them of them dragging down the property values, Tales from Turnpike House would certainly benefit from some tenant evictions.

Tales to keep: The chorus of "Sun in My Morning" layers harmonizing vocals under Sarah Cracknell's chanteuse drawl, with cymbals and flutes accenting the flamenco rhythm of the acoustic guitar. "A Good Thing" and "Stars Above Us" have low ends that could move Stonehenge. The flutes again add a sultry air to "Dream Lover," and the Spanish guitar makes an encore appearance, hand-in-hand with harpsichord, on "Slow Down at the Castle."

Tales to sack: "Lightning Strikes Twice" regurgitates that cliché, and the spoken verses of "Teenage Winter" are just plain boring. There's a moment in "Milk Bottle Symphony" where the sappiness gives way to a happier "Eleanor Rigby," but it's not enough to save the song. "Oh My" sounds like a Spice Girls song--while the lyric "she wouldn't date Brad Pitt if you paid her / she's more into James Spader" is sort of cute now, it will sound bloody ridiculous in a few years.

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