Beach Boys references, samples of obscure films, samples of not-so-obscure prog rock trios -- whether or not one faults Saint Etienne for being style-over-substance cultural archivists, they did release some of the best dance-pop singles of the '90s. The dancefloor aspect hasn't leant itself to a timeless sheen to each one of them, but truthfully, people who find nothing to like about the group -- not a single song -- probably don't like pop music. And God only knows thousands of broke Saint Etienne fans vehemently disagree with the axiom that record collectors shouldn't make records. Throughout the '90s, Bob Stanley, Pete Wiggs, and Sarah Cracknell kept one foot in the past and the other in the present, making musical jigsaw puzzles out of sounds old and new. For many, Saint Etienne has provided a gateway into '60s pop, reggae, Northern soul, and techno. Smash the System, a swollen update of the Too Young to Die singles compilation, demonstrates their niche. Barring one song, this package contains everything Too Young to Die features and picks up where it left off, patching on the two singles from 1998's Good Humor (the compilation ends chronologically with 1999's Places to Visit EP). But wait -- there's more. In addition to the 14 A-sides, a hodgepodge of album tracks and rarities -- seven of which are taken from Japan-only compilations -- are selected to fill out the remainder of the two-disc set. As a place to start, one could do far worse. However, due to the sheer volume of decent-to-great Saint Etienne material floating around, there's no way that two discs could possibly give listeners everything they need.
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AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2