It's never been a part of the United Kingdom, but thrown into the shipping forecast's dolorous ebb and flow, Finisterre was part of a nation's parallel universe. Likewise, Saint Etienne was detached from Britain, just an industrial town west of Lyon, until a grizzly night in 1998. Since Beckham's penalty in Sapporo, it'll be a name less associated with pain and anguish, and more with a much-loved pop-electronica trio with a back catalogue of mysterious language and melancholy melodies.
Finisterre is Saint Etienne's sixth or fifteenth album, depending on whose shirt you wear – with this group it's all in the details. So depending on which way you turn Finisterre's kaleidoscope you can detect an affinity with Guy Fawkes or Guy Stevens, Guy Debord or Guy Pearce. This revolution is defiantly anti-macho (Soft Like Me) and anti-careerist (Amateur), definitely terpsichorean (Shower Scene) and modernist (the title track).
They have chosen their co-conspirators carefully; Doves' guitarist Jez Williams, actor Michael Jayston who provides the narrative, Mark Perry – punk's greatest hero – who writes the sleevenote. And there's a film of the same name in the works, excerpts of which were seen at the ICA and the Edinburgh Film Festival in August.
Saint Etienne remain amateurs in the true Latin sense.
Twist the kaleidoscope again. Some say they wear their art on their sleeve, yet Saint Etienne revel in ambiguity. With Finisterre are Bob, Pete and Sarah attempting to evoke a lost chunk of English culture? Or maybe it's a grand metaphor for detachment from the continent, the ocean, the European Community, globalisation. It could be a character study, a love affair.
The answer may be in the title: you could translate it as “Land's End”, or “The End Of The World.”
Turn it again, again. Finisterre will reveal itself to be as magical and translucent as the shipping forecast itself.
St Etienne tour the UK in October:
October 4 Cotier Theatre Glasgow
October 5 Olympia Theatre Dublin
October 6 Ritz Manchester
October 7 City Varieties Leeds
October 8 Manchester Academy Manchester
October 9 Concorde2 Brighton
October 10 Royal Festival Hall London