Saint Etienne | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Saint Etienne

Finisterre DVD


"The dog and the dish," Iain Sinclair wrote in his seminal psychogeographic tour of London, Lights Out For the Territory, "they hang out together chummy as a pub sign." The Pit Bull and Satellite Dish: Add to this lexicon The Crane and Housing Project; The Banksy Tag. That's the territory explored musically and visually by U.K. electro-pop group Saint Etienne on Finisterre, an hour-long DVD love song to London that swoons over graffiti, construction sites and record shops with the same glow that a middle-aged Minnesotan might cast on the Crown Jewels.


 Saint Etienne's music is 21st-century pop as envisioned by its '60s predecessors: post-rave music for Eeno Aarnio furniture. On Finisterre, the group's cinematic sound blossoms over nearly-still photo shots of, say, a canal boat plowing through a rough East End housing project, or a series of close-ups of acne-faced hooligan kids. Director Paul Kelly lingers over buildings and faces, and fixates on talismans of pop-city life -- the hidden plaque where Joe Meek's studio stood, a pressing-plant employee stuffing Trojan records into sleeves.


One of the beauties of Finisterre, as it travels London by neighborhood, digging up Saint Etienne's heroes and pals to tell their tales, is its anonymity -- the city's massiveness is too much for regular Joes and indie-rock icons (Vic Godard of Subway Sect; Lawrence of Felt) alike. When friends explain the thrill of living in Highpoint -- where The Avengers' Miss Emma Peel lived -- or of a simple drinking session in the West End, there's an ego-stripping beauty to it, backed up by Saint Etienne's melancholic bleeping pop. Watch the sunset from Primrose Hill as avant-folkie Vashti Bunyan admits her feelings of disloyalty, having left London, and one is hard-pressed not to feel that this place is both the beginning and end of the world.