British band Saint Etienne has collaborated with 90s photographer Alasdair McLellan to shoot the cinematic visual for their new record, I’ve Been Trying To Tell You which launches on September 10th as part of the band’s tenth studio album entitled Heavenly Recordings.
The album encompasses three of our favourite subjects: optimism, youth and the late 90s, all of which have their place in a post Covid world.
The album, it transpires, was made largely from samples and sounds from between the years 1997 and 2001 – a time period ushered in by Labour’s victory in the UK and brutally brought to a close by 9/11. Seen by many as Britain’s last golden age, the film sets out to explore how oftentimes our collective memories are often a warped, hazy version of what life was really like. And that’s where Alasdair comes in.
Alasdair, who grew up in South Yorkshire, recalls a time of teenage boredom in a place where very little happened. “I now look back at that time as something quite idyllic — even the boredom seems idyllic — and a big part of its soundtrack was Saint Etienne.”
The project take the form of a road trip across the UK on which Alasdair captured young people, from Scunthorpe to Stonehenge, living their best lives in the summer sun. In the resulting film, black and white Tudor houses are spliced with shots of the M1; gothic cathedrals with factories, shopping centres and power lines. Topless young geezers skim stones, groups of friends stalk familiar looking cul-de-sacs and, as the sun goes down, have a makeshift rave in a field illuminated by the headlights of an old VW Golf GTI. They surrender to the sound, embrace the softness of the morning after, hold each other close, go wild swimming, skate their local bowls and take in the hallucinatory trip that is the Blackpool Illuminations. They’re young and free and nothing else matters. It’s a love letter to the country that birthed both the photographer and the band that meant so much to his teenage self.
In a modern world where teens often read that such close relationships are lacking and that young people are looking to 90s sitcoms to feel such closeness, it is encouraging to see through Alastair’s lens and to unpack these ideas. The result is one of optimism and gratitude.