Sarah Cracknell

Lipslide

Heavenly

Dec 18, 2012 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Sarah Cracknell’s (Saint Etienne) 1997 album Lipslide had all the markings of a vanity project. Comely frontwoman with a crystalline soprano ditches bandmates and makes a stab at a solo stardom….blah blah blah. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

And now is the part where we flip the script, and the once dark horse (“Disposable!” naysayers cried, noting Saint Etienne’s original plan to rotate vocalists) proves her worth over the course of 11 glittering electro-pop tracks. An equally expected plot point perhaps, but a welcome cliché for those who had been rooting for the songstress since 1991’s Foxbase Alpha single, “Nothing Can Stop Us.”

What could have easily sounded like one-third of Cracknell’s day job is given a shove in a more melodic, less dance direction with the help of co-writer/composer Ian Catt. Cracknell throws the emphasis on storytelling, painting bittersweet pictures of loneliness in the big city with the smallest of details: book shopping, whispers, and Friday night television among them. There’s a through-line of wistfulness—for a love that got away (“Taking off For France”), for halcyon nights (“Taxi”), and for self-sufficiency (“Anymore”). 

When not diving head first into dance pop (a move that often makes the album feel like a series of straightforward Saint Etienne B-sides) Cracknell successfully flexes her midrange. All she has to work with is varying shades of sweet, but it’s stretched to fit the role of bantamweight Motown songstress (“Can’t Stop Now”), electro ghost (“Goldie”), and synth-soaked Dusty Springfield (“Ready or Not”).

The album’s reissue features 15 extra tracks. The mixed bag ranges from essential (anything off Cracknell’s 2000 EP Kelly’s Locker—most notably languorous gems “Aussie Soap Girl,” and “Judy Don’t You Worry”), to wispy (blink-and-you’ll-forget’em tracks “Summer Song,” and “Seashell”). Demo versions of “Ready or Not” and “Can’t Stop Now” are aimed squarely at preexisting believers. Their inclusion, however, proves Cracknell’s unique gift of bring emotion to even the most minimal of settings. An essential element of Saint Etienne, Cracknell can also keep any company she chooses. (www.saintetienne.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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