Everything But The Girl
Amplified Heart’s success was unexpected. Released to little fanfare, it was the last album in Everything But The Girl’s contract with Blanco y Negro, and the label put minimal effort into promoting it—much like they’d done for the past few years, truth be told. They were technically without a label when “Missing”—a downbeat ballad—started to make waves, thanks to a Todd Terry remix. Before long, this band without a label or label support suddenly had a worldwide smash hi on their hands—a dance hit to boot, completely different from what had come before it, stripped-down acoustic balladry and soft rock with a jazz heart.
Released in 1996, Walking Wounded is a beautiful, and beautifully understated dance record. Thorn writes in the liner notes that she felt a certain amount of pressure to complete the record because she felt that they might miss out on the opportunity for Walking Wounded being recognized as the first jazz/pop/electronica hybrid. They needn’t have worried; the Todd Terry remix of “Missing” had established them as the parents of said hybrid. They carry the torch well; “Before Today” and album single “Wrong” set the tone, gentle jazz over electronic programming and dance grooves is a sound whose time had come.
Had anything really changed, though? When one listens to “The Heart Remains A Child” and “Mirrorball,” one is instantly reminded of the more adult contemporary stylings of their two adult contemporary albums, 1990’s The Language of Life and 1991’s Worldwide, two albums that might not have been critically acclaimed on release, but have aged nicely with the passing of time. The four bonus demos only hammer the point home that even though the arrangements had changed, Everything But The Girl really hadn’t changed their songwriting formula all that much.
If there’s a Rosetta Stone to these final two albums, it’s Walking Wounded’s bonus disc. While the remixes from the Amplified Heart era were nice, they felt somewhat stiff and awkward, mainly due to the source material not really being primed for consideration for dance floor material. This isn’t the case here, and while there is definite repetition to be found here, these remixes are never less than enjoyable, whether it be the pleasant grooves of the Chicane Remix of “Before Today,” the glitchy Photek remix of “Single,” the mellow callback to “Missing” on Todd Terry’s remix of “Wrong,” the beats of Deep Dish’s reworking of the same, or the upbeat carnival jubilation of Ben Watt’s reworking of“Corvocado.” a song that carries with it a Latin groove not heard since Tracey’s appearance on Working Week’s “Vecenemos (We Will Win).”
These remixes are important to consider, because their influence on the band’s final album, Temperamental, cannot be denied. Released in 1999, it’s a transitional work, at best. It’s also extremely melancholy, with songs recalling acts of violence, discontent, and sadness. It’s also apparent that Watt’s love of dance music has taken over, as the album’s heart is an electronic one. Thorn is still there, but her presence is noticeably diminished. This is a dance record—and there are subtle hints that this might be the end; closing an album with a song called “The Future Of The Future” and a single called “Lullaby of Clubland” definitely raise questions. The bonus disc of remixes is perhaps the weakest set of bonuses in the reissue campaign; these versions neither compel nor reveal. While technically not bad, their inclusion is more out of obligation than necessity.
But the end was nigh; Thorn took pleasure in raising her twin daughters, until she felt the calling to make music again, while Watt was engaged in a new career as a professional DJ and label owner. For what it’s worth, Everything But The Girl has never really broken up; as long as Ben and Tracey are a couple, they will always be together, even if they never make another record using that name again. Perhaps there will be more music from the duo, perhaps not; either way, these two fine albums are excellent albums to bow out with.
Categories: Album Reviews