Home Counties is the perfect record for taking a summer drive to old neighborhoods to visit friends and enemies, both of which are useful.
Whether it’s “Train Drives with Eyeliners” or a visit with the “Church Pew Furniture Restorer", it's within the radius of the suburbs of London that Saint Etienne reminisce about youthful days while searching for pop perfection once again.
Maybe 'reminisce' is not quite the right term, as the trio do not exactly have the fondest of memories, electing instead to poke fun at the quiet suburban lifestyle with its people rooted in habit and shrouded in a boredom. Pop perfection, on the other hand, is always close at hand when you are listening to a Saint Etienne record.
We learn that the citizens of the Home Counties tend to go a little mad in and amongst the nicely manicured lawns and tree lined streets. “Heather”, for example, is a reference to the Enfield Poltergeist which was a hoax by a couple of young girls that brought major media attention into their life. It seems the inherent boredom of the simple existence in the shires leads its citizens to invent things to be passionate about, like debate train schedules in “Train Drivers with Eyeliner” or perhaps dream of a small suburb becoming the “Stockholm of the 90s” in “Whyteleafe”.
Thematically the album's tight and the catchy hooks and danceable rhythms drip with just the right amount of psychedelic dance-pop sweetness. With infectious grooves, great musical phrases and smooth almost sultry vocals, it all makes for another Saint Etienne record that's extremely hard to dislike, especially when Sarah Cracknell beckons us to stay with her longer “Underneath the Apple Tree”. Not to worry miss Cracknell, we shall never leave your side so long as you continue to sing those sweet melodies in our ears as you have done for close to 30 years.