Saint Etienne: Travel Edition 1990-2005

Saint Etienne
Travel Edition 1990-2005
(Sub Pop)

In my dream, there’s a new Alterna-Disneyland opening in England, and one of the rides is called “1990s Dance Culture.” At the beginning of the ride, you get into your little electric car on a track, and through the speakers in the headrest behind you, you hear the sounds of Saint Etienne’s Travel Edition 1990-2005 start to play. Since the first track is one of two previously unreleased songs, your car climbs up “Primrose Hill” in the darkness, only to emerge into a perfectly recreated scene of a rave in the English countryside, circa 1990, and the soundtrack kicks into Saint Etienne’s first hit, an acid-laced, baggy-pants stomp through Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.” After the exultant “Nothing Can Stop Us,” also from their debut, Foxbase Alpha, your car turns into a London neighborhood for some incidentals—breakfast the morning after at “Mario’s Café,” or shopping for the perfect handbag—all while the pretty selections from So Tough stream out of the speakers. Then it’s back to the club for the mid-90s and some upbeat house, garage, two-step, whatever the hell you want to call it, backed by the two singles “He’s on the Phone” and “Burnt Out Car.” A trip through the Chunnel drops you on the continent, just in time to hear the cosmopolitan ambient disco of their Sub Pop albums (including the excellent Sound of Water), perhaps their most fruitful period. As the other unreleased track, “Fascination,” winds to a close, and the coda of “Finisterre” brings you around again to the turnstiles, you know you’ve been on a memorable trip through the last 15 years, and Saint Etienne has been your partner on the dance floor.