Sunday, May 06, 2012

Saint Etienne - South London band slag off South London

There's an interview with Saint Etienne in the Observer today to promote their new album. As discussed on Transpontine before, band founders Bob Stanley and Pete Wigg grew up in Croydon. And indeed they dicuss in the interview heading from there to the bright lights of New Cross in search of a London night out: 

'Childhood friends Stanley and Wigg were so in thrall to the capital they'd all but lie to themselves to feel part of the city. "The cachet of London was such that we used to go to pubs by the nearest stop that had a London postcode, because Croydon had a Surrey postcode," Wiggs remembers. "So we'd go to Norwood and New Cross, just to go to the pub. 'We're out in London tonight! Going uptown!"'

 But then Bob Stanley really puts his foot in it: 'And in the great psychic divide marked by the Thames that separates one sort of Londoner from another, they come down firmly on one side. "South London's not really London, is it?" Stanley says. "It's just an endless suburb. Also, there's obvious musical heritage in the bits of London I'm drawn to – Joe Meek in the Holloway Road. And Muswell Hill always seemed like a grimy place from the Kinks."

Oh dear. The band's musical reference points have always been centred round the 1960s. They have made some great music, but sadly that same 1960s Soho template makes for a narrow vision of London. Moving beyond The Kinks and Joe Meek, there's also obvious musical heritage in many parts of South London: reggae sound systems and lovers rock from New Cross and Lewisham, late 70s pub rock and early new wave from Deptford and Greenwich (Squeeze, Dire Straits etc.), dubstep from Croydon... I could go on, but you could just look through this blog for many other examples.

Saint Etienne's best song took its name from a Croydon based paving company. Getting back in touch with their South London roots might not do their songwriting any harm.


Tom Murphy said...

Pffft. See also "Tottenham gal" Adele.

Anonymous said...

Steve Harley?

Stuart said...

It was a really stupid comment on South London just being all suburbs, as:

1) Suburbs stretch out in many directions. Plenty of suburbs in North London

2) If you're discriminating, each area has its own atmosphere and interest - its not just one undifferentiated mass.

3) Don't knock suburbs anyway. Plenty of good music from the suburbs - and it has its own influence e.g think of the Bromley Contingent and Siouxsie & The Banshees and their first album's interest in the suburbs e.g. suburban relapse.

St Etienne talk a good talk about loving London, but they didn't highlight anything particularly interesting in this article before retreating to the pub. And their film from being artists in residence at the RFH/South Bank was as dull as ditchwater.

They seem to lost their creative spark, as Transpontine observes.

Deptford Pudding said...

I drove past the gun shop in Archway yesterday, where Ms Cracknell lived in a flat and was too scared to go out. Why?