SAINT Etienne have always been sympathetic and astute chroniclers of London life through their music so there could be few groups more suited to soundtrack How We Used to Live, filmmaker Paul Kelly’s carefully curated collage of BFI archive footage which delivers a potted social history of the city in saturated colour in much the same way as Virginia Heath’s From Scotland With Love captures ordinary folks at work and play.
Rating: * * *
The whimsical Pete Wiggs-penned accompaniment, played by an expanded line-up including violin, cello, melodica and flute, was more incidental instrumental than King Creosote’s characterful songs, however, deferring to the soundtrack of children’s songs and hymns on the original film footage and producing a one-style-fits-all score of blithe basslines, jaunty keyboards, tremulous strings and ba-ba-backing vocals from Sarah Cracknell and Debsey Wykes, whether the footage was of swinging London or street punks.
Shots of river, pub and park life were accompanied by Ian McShane’s velvety narration. There were humorous juxtapositions of voiceover and visuals, plus some brilliant footage of Mickie Most jogging which could have been tailor made for a Saint Etienne video.
Post-film, the band returned to swish through some of their immaculate hits but, while there was no disputing the charms of pop nuggets such as You’re In A Bad Way and the Silver Dagger-referencing Like A Motorway, Cracknell was a touch phased by the non-conventional gig environment and her delivery was shaky throughout – not that the besotted audience appeared to mind.