Foxbase Alpha

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Foxbase Alpha
FoxbaseAlpha.jpg
Studio album by Saint Etienne
Released September 1991 (1991-09) (Europe)
January 1992 (1992-01) (US)
Recorded 1990, 1991
Genre Alternative dance, indie pop, electronica
Length 48:27
Label HeavenlyHVNLP1
Warner Bros. Records (US)
Producer Saint Etienne
Saint Etienne chronology
Foxbase Alpha
(1991)
So Tough
(1993)
Singles from Foxbase Alpha
  1. "Only Love Can Break Your Heart"
    Released: May 1990 (1990-05)
  2. "Kiss and Make Up"
    Released: September 1990 (1990-09)
  3. "Nothing Can Stop Us"
    Released: May 1991 (1991-05)
  4. "Only Love Can Break Your Heart (reissue)"
    Released: August 1991 (1991-08)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars[1]
Pitchfork Media (8.7/10)[2]

Foxbase Alpha is the first album by British band Saint Etienne, released in 1991.

The album was recorded in a style which is close to the house music sound of the time, but songs like "Nothing Can Stop Us" and "Wilson" display the group's characteristic love of 1960s pop and several samples. Longer songs like "Stoned to Say the Least" and "Like the Swallow" are reminiscent of ambient house akin to The Orb. Like its follow-up So Tough, Foxbase Alpha's songs are bridged by samples from films or by short songs. At the time of recording, Sarah Cracknell was not fully part of group, and as a result she does not sing on "Only Love Can Break Your Heart", which is sung by Moira Lambert.

Foxbase Alpha was and on the short list of nominees for the 1992 Mercury Prize.

The title of the album is a reference to the street name of the drug 5-Methoxy-diisopropyltryptamine in one of its freebase (smokeable) forms. The drug theme continues throughout the album, for example in "Wilson" the sample "LSD into pence" (originally to mean LSD as pre decimalisation £sd before the changes made by Harold Wilson) as LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) being the new currency in clubs.

Singles[edit]

The album includes one of the group's best-known songs: a cover of Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart". The cover quite differs from the original in that the original's mostly major chord progression is turned here into mostly minor, which emphasises a more melancholic feel. It is also arranged in 4/4 (as opposed to the original's waltz time), with a driving piano-bass-drum section. Andrew Weatherall later remixed the song to further emphasise the dub bassline; this remix was featured on both releases of the single and on the compilation Casino Classics (on American and European versions of the single, a Flowered Up remix is erroneously featured instead of the Andrew Weatherall mix). The follow-up single "Kiss and Make Up" is also a cover version of a (comparatively obscure) song written and originally recorded by The Field Mice. Ian Catt was the engineer/co-producer on both versions.

"Carnt Sleep" is based on the Youthman riddim, a backing track that reggae producer Glen Brown has used on dozens of records since the late nineteen-seventies. "Wilson" is based on a loop of the intro to Wilson Pickett's version of "Hey Jude" and spoken samples from a decimalisation training record. "Nothing Can Stop Us", one of the group's most famous singles, features a very prominent sample of Dusty Springfield's track, "I Can't Wait Until I See My Baby's Face" (from her 1967 album Where Am I Going?.) Saint Etienne later recorded a version of "Nothing Can Stop Us" with vocals by Kylie Minogue.

The dialogue heard in the track "Etienne Gonna Die" is from the movie House of Games.

Artwork[edit]

The young woman on the cover of Foxbase Alpha, Celina Nash, also turns up in Saint Etienne's 1993 album So Tough; she is the waitress who can be heard on "Chicken Soup". She is also in the video for the Pulp song "Babies".[citation needed]

Different versions[edit]

US edition[edit]

The US version of the album, released in January 1992, adds two bonus tracks: a new version of "Kiss and Make Up", rerecorded with Cracknell, and a unique version of "People Get Real", which was released as a double 'A' side single with "Join Our Club" later the same year.

2009 Deluxe Edition[edit]

The album was re-released in May 2009 as part of the Universal Music Deluxe Edition re-issue program. The album has been remastered, and is accompanied by a second disc featuring B-sides, mixes and five previously unreleased tracks. The CD booklet features new sleeve notes by Jon Savage and Tom Ewing, images and memorabilia.

Also released was a boxed-set version, which was limited to 1000 copies. In addition to the two CDs this package also included a 6" Subbuteo figure and a replica Foxbase Alpha poster, as well as a set of four badges.[3]

Foxbase Beta[edit]

In 2009, Foxbase Alpha was 're-produced' and remixed from the original multi-tracks by Richard X. This new version was called Foxbase Beta, and formed the basis of much of what was played during the band's May 2009 tour, which saw Foxbase Alpha played live in its entirety for the first time. Foxbase Beta was packaged with an additional CD titled Foxbase Extra, featuring a commentary on the album by Bob Stanley, Pete Wiggs and Richard X, and additional out-takes. A single disc version was sold at their 2009 shows and through Rough trade records in London.

Track listing[edit]

1991 releases[edit]

All songs written and composed by Stanley and Wiggs; except where indicated. 

CD, LP, Cassette: Heavenly HVNLP1CD (UK and Europe)
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "This Is Radio Etienne"     0:42
2. "Only Love Can Break Your Heart"   Young 4:29
3. "Wilson"     1:59
4. "Carnt Sleep"     4:43
5. "Girl VII"     3:46
6. "Spring"     3:43
7. "She's the One"     3:09
8. "Stoned to Say the Least"     7:42
9. "Nothing Can Stop Us"     4:21
10. "Etienne Gonna Die"     1:32
11. "London Belongs to Me"     3:57
12. "Like the Swallow"     7:41
13. "Dilworth's Theme"     0:38

2009 release[edit]

Credits[edit]

The liner notes list the album's personnel as follows:

B-sides[edit]

References[edit]