My Record Collection 103

Everything But The Girl – Another great Eighties band, singer Tracey Thorn and instrumentalist Ben Watt – they each wrote the songs.  They seemed to arrive in 1984 fully formed, their sound unique, their style unlike any other.  They sing slow and usually sad sort of songs, Tracey’s voice is haunting and low, subtle and gorgeous.  Ben occasionally sings too, but his playing is gentle and matches the voice perfectly.  They seem timeless to me, encapsulating the sort of sound of The Carpenters (see C) without the sickliness, the sensibility of the Sixties and Seventies without the pop stuff.  Anyway, I discovered them slowly too and have worked back, buying a boxset of their first few albums to remind me what I had initially missed.  Eden arrived in ’84 and was a gentle debut – no really obvious singles, but a nice collection.  I particularly like opener ‘Each and Every One’ and ‘Frost and Fire’ – but sometimes it is hard to distinguish individual songs, the album has a feel and it is just so pleasant to listen to you don’t really notice that one song has ended and another has begun.   Love Not Money followed a year later.  Another gentle record full of yearning vocals and soft arrangements.  Again, no tracks really stand out but a nice addition to my collection.   Their third album Baby the Stars Still Shine Bright and they found their sound.  A bit sparser production, less guitars, more orchestration and Tracey’s vocals centre and strong.  The songs themselves were better too, more mature and dynamic.  I really like this record; it seems far happier; several of the songs they wrote together too where before they wrote separately.  Again, the songs tend to blend but I do like the opener ‘Come On Home’ and the closer ‘Little Hitlers’.  Of course when we only had vinyl it was important that the first and last tracks on each side were winners – now, with CDs and wretched downloads, none of that seems to matter.  Oh Well.   Idlewild came out in ‘89; and now by album number 4, they seemed to have finally cracked it.  The songs are even better; Tracey’s voice even more yearning and the production almost not there.  Some great songs too; ‘I Always Was Your Girl’, the teenage memory ‘Oxford Street’ and the saddest song ever ‘The Night I Heard Caruso Sing’ sung by Ben about the places his father loved in Scotland and that now they were loading bombs into those hills.  But all the songs are good on this one – hard to pick favourite; a classic album.   Strange, during the Sixties I thought Music could get no better – then the Seventies became my favourite – but now I am really loving these Eighties bands.   The Nineties saw Ben and Tracey recording their next album in L.A. The Language of Life is a silky smooth lounge album, the songs are almost indistinguishable as the production swamps everything in a syrupy laid-back jazz smooch.  Boring as fuck.   Only the track ‘Driving’ has any sort of life in it.  Oh well.  The follow-up, Worldwide (1991) was much better, Tracey’s voice clear and centre and the production sparkling;  Maybe they had been looking for a new sound or a new audience, I don’t think they found either.  But they returned with a great album and a good batch of songs.  Best are ‘Misunderstanding’, ‘Frozen River’ and ‘Boxing and Pop Music’ – in all a great album, I love it. Then they released a covers album Accoustic which was great.    Actually it is only half a covers record and half either original or re-recorded songs.  Quite pleasant but not really one of their best.  Some good versions of well-known songs but nothing really new.  Amplified Heart (1994) was a better effort.   A return to their trademark soft style, best songs ‘I Don’t Understand’, ‘Missing’ and ‘’We Walk the Same Line’.  Then something strange happened, or maybe it was inevitable.  The ‘Dance Music’ and ‘Rave Scene’ was sweeping the world, and a couple of DJs took two of their songs ‘Driving’ and ‘Missing’ and put ‘Dance Beats’ on and they became underground hits.  Tracey Thorn recorded a couple of incredible tracks with Massive Attack (see M) for the album Protection,  And they decided to record a whole album with a ‘Dance; sound; Walking Wounded (1996) was quite a big hit and had a couple of top ten singles too (it also had a brilliant cover photo).  I really like the album, Tracey’s vocal fits smoothly into this trip-hop sound; the songs are quite good too, especially the title track and ‘Wrong’ and ‘Single’.  The album was really quite a triumph.  But the band were almost exhausted, Ben having major health problems and their next album was their last (so far).  Temperamental (1999).  This is a complete dance album with vocals almost incidental and sadly it seems to miss the whole point of Everything but the Girl, which was intelligent lyrics and gentle melodies.  Oh well.  Maybe they realized it too as this was their last effort, both almost retiring from the scene apart from occasional guest vocals, although Ben has released a couple of solo albums.  I have 3 compilations of theirs, mostly because of rare ‘B’ sides etc.   Home Movies (1993) this features a single cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s (see S) ‘The Only Living Boy In New York’ and ‘I Don’t Want To Talk About It’, later covered by Rod Stewart (see S).  Platinum Collection is a good compilation too – but the best is Like The Deserts Miss the Rain, which is a few rarities and Tracey’s songs with Massive Attack and later stuff including an Italian single ‘Coscovado’ – a geat dance track.   And a few other re-mixes make this maybe one of the most interesting of their career. 

Walking Wounded [VINYL]