PAUL VAN DYK feat SAINT ETIENNE – “Tell Me Why (The Riddle)” (Deviant Records CD Single)
Couldn’t have put it better myself, frankly. Saint Etienne’s output over the last couple of years has been desperately erratic, swinging tedious retropop to the intriguing blanked-out cityscapes of Places To Visit, then to last month’s flailing non-epic “How We Used To Live”, and now to this collaboration with Paul Van Dyk, droid-eyed purveyor of ‘tasteful’ trancebag to the Our Price crowd. Get past the grisly sight of Van Dyk (the missing link between Marc Almond and Vanilla Ice) in a white poloneck and this isn’t strictly bad: Dyk’s beats may be regimental-issue but they at least give a bit of backbone to Stanley/Wiggs/Cracknell’s increasingly flakey, floatey songwriting. More beguilingly, “Tell Me Why”, with its similar snow-falling refrain, seems to work as a loved-up companion piece to “How We Used To Live”, and the two songs would each have worked much better as the other’s double A-Side. As it is, Saint Etienne’s ongoing identity crisis remains frustratingly unresolved.