In this age of downloading, with every song being at everyone’s fingertips, the idea of a singles collection is lost on the practical person. Even the one or two “new” songs are never much of an incentive to buy a full-length album filled with songs that you already have. Why bother when you can do all of this yourself on iTunes?
Over a career that spans three decades and several genres, Saint Etienne has always been expert at combining eclecticism, mood and style into a hodgepodge that has illustrated the group’s ability to jump from one style to the next without losing any listeners. On Travel Edition (1990-2005), the group’s first domestically available singles collection, their career is showcased in a quick, one-disc format, with two songs that see the light of day for the first time — an instrumental, “Primrose Hill,” and “Fascination.”
Essentially arranged chronologically, the set features highlights from their early dance-pop days, such as “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” (their take on the Neil Young classic) and “Hug My Soul”; their flirtation with American pop in “Lose That Girl,” one of the band’s finest moments; their later, more minimalist dance-pop with “How We Used to Live”; then finally with two selections from Finisterre, their previous album, which was released in 2002.
With Travel Edition (1990-2005), Saint Etienne illustrates why these compilations are still relevant. As always, the group has followed through with truly immaculate packaging, and despite the proliferation of the group’s singles collections, this is the first one that Americans won’t have to pay an import price for. With a new album slated for early 2005, maybe we can expect another one of these ten years down the road.