Saint Etienne

Travel Edition 1990-2005

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Along with Associates, the Smiths, and Pet Shop Boys, Saint Etienne has been one of the great U.K. singles groups of the past few decades. They've been England's equivalent of the Beastie Boys -- obsessive record collectors who pull from numerous beloved elements of the past while remaining cutting-edge -- only they've never sounded tired or short on new ideas. Travel Edition 1990-2005 is the first best-of the group has had distributed in the U.S., and it focuses on the A-sides but, due to space constraints, stops short of being thoroughly representative. This can also be credited to Saint Etienne's strength as an album group. As of late 2004, they had yet to release a less-than-good full-length. If you want to go beyond the singles but aren't able to commit to the albums (you really ought to consider them, though), there's the 2001 double-disc Smash the System, which shouldn't be hard to find on import in the States; though it was released too soon to include songs from The Sound of Water and Finisterre, it features essential non-singles ("Who Do You Think You Are," "Archway People," "The Process," "Wood Cabin") and also includes a handful of just as desirable singles ("Join Our Club," "You're in a Bad Way," "Angel") that weren't able to be squeezed into this disc. Perhaps some of Saint Etienne's songs have dated -- just as the average Beach Boys or Blondie singles point directly toward their respective years of release -- but all of them have aged exceptionally well, as well as anything recorded by the groups they hold dear to their hearts. Taken purely as a gateway compilation, Travel Edition should do its job with no trouble. Regardless of what it's missing or what it includes, the disc contains some of the most fun, warm-spirited music money can buy.

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