So Tough, released in 1993, is a less iconic record than Foxbase Alpha, Saint Etienne's debut of two years previously, but it's arguably a more mind-blowing listen, and certainly more fully realised in terms of sound and concept and all-consuming SWOON: a drowsy, dubbed-out, sampledelic collage of a concept album, charting an imaginary dérive around London (beginning at 'Mario's Cafe' in Kentish Town). This is, of course, an impossibly glamorous London of yesteryear - a scruffier, more romantic incarnation of the city, before its energy and mystery was mapped and sapped by satellites and smartphones and Yelp reviews. Perhaps this idealised, prelapsarian London never truly existed except in the imaginations of suburban dreamers like Bob and Pete and Sarah and you and me. But fantasy or not, in the grooves of So Tough it LIVES. The influences/references are the same stock as before - a crazy-sophisticated brew of house, hip-hop, reggae, indie-pop, lushly orchestrated 60s folk-rock, chanson, ye-ye and dolly-doom - but they’re harnessed here with even more precision and postmodern flair, and embroidered with sampled dialogue from films like Peeping Tom, Billy Liar and That’ll Be The Day that hammer home the uniquely British themes of self-thwarting / longing for ESCAPE.