Saint Etienne | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Saint Etienne 

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On Saint Etienne's latest, Tales From Turnpike House (Savoy Jazz), the band has virtually swung to its stylistic apogee: once a club-ready dance-floor band with a gift for melody, they're now a full-fledged pop group (and a superb one at that) with some dancey elements. In exchanging song production for songwriting their sound became more organic--fewer drum machines and synths, more acoustic instrumentation--which suits Turnpike House, a concept album illustrating an average day in the life of the house's suburban London working-class inhabitants. Thankfully we don't get any social commentary (as we might from a similar band like Black Box Recorder), but we do get a greater diversity of styles than on any of the group's previous releases. "Sun in My Morning" opens with jazzy chord changes and flute lines, like a 21st-century take on the Association. Jazz and tropicalia elements enter into a few other songs as well, like the stunningly gorgeous "Side Streets." The few stabs at techno-pop seem noncommittal: Madchester rave-rollers might've gotten down to something as tame as "A Good Thing" circa 1990, but only because you start to run out of vinyl DJing a party 24-7. It's like the band that once epitomized the jet-set lifestyle has returned home to visit mum and hung the tailored outfits on the door. Venus Hum opens. Wed 2/15, 8 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $18.50, 18+.

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