Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Saint Etienne, "Lose That Girl" (1998)


I'm pretty sure Saint Etienne's fourth album, Good Humor, is better than most people seem to think, and "Lose That Girl" highlights a lot of the reasons why ("Mr. Donut" and "Erica America" were further candidates, eliminated late): pop confections sweet enough to make your jaw hurt, with aching undertows of tender pain and regrets, melodies that stick, and grooves. Also Sarah Cracknell's vocals, breathy epitome of a European pop sensibility that connects easily back to the '60s and Henry Mancini, Claudine Longet, Margo Guryan, Astrid Gilberto, Audrey Hepburn. I like "Lose That Girl" because it reminds me of another '60s artifact: "You're Gonna Lose That Girl" and the way the Beatles wrote their puppy love songs, focused on one specific aspect at a time of the churn of love and infatuation, ending up across several albums with something close to an exhaustive catalog. Here we have a concerned friend of the opposite sex, a girl attempting to talk sense to a boy blinded by the swoon. It sounds serious, from the details. But is the singer, who views herself as more sophisticated, really disinterested? Does she have designs on the boy herself? Is there more we need to know? Hard to say, hard to say, and yes of course. Part of the delight is the gaps left to ponder. The urgency is set in motion by the tempo, and the clanking band smoothly keeping up. All indications point to "that girl" being the bad news the singer asserts she is: "walked out on you last Saturday," "dropped out of school," "on her radio she turned the disco down," etc. As the song sails out of sight, nothing is resolved, and no, playing it again won't clarify anything, except the pure frothing magnetism of the pop music magic. There's a long version of this too, but I don't think it's nearly as good.

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