February 28, 2018 Tracey Thorn – Record (Album Review)
One-half of the worldwide-famous, multimillion selling, and chart-topping Everything but the Girl, Tracey Thorn had been the distinct, breezy, low-register voice behind the English duo’s apron string of memorable songs, from their classic New Wave tracks, like “When All’s Well” and “Ballad of the Times;” to their heartrending ballads, which included “Don’t Let the Teardrops Rust Your Shining Heart” and “I Always Was Your Girl;” and to their foray into Electronic Dance Music, such as “Missing” and “Walking Wounded.” Unfortunately, after performing their final show at the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Switzerland, in 2000, Thorn and her musical partner and husband, Ben Watt, decided to resume their respective solo careers, thus effectively sending Everything But the Girl on an indefinite hiatus.
However, Thorn, as a solo artist, did not stop from releasing new music. Since Everything but the Girl became inactive, she has followed up her 1982 pre-EBTG debut with three albums more – 2006’s Out of the Woods, 2010’s Love and Its Opposite, and 2012’s Christmas-themed Tinsel and Lights. Now, after six years of seeming quietude, she is ready again to treat the world with her new effort; and a surprisingly assertive manifesto of a record at that!
Thorn’s fifth solo is comprised by songs oozing with lyrical themes of bold and unapologetic female perspectives on various issues that include not only serious subjects such as sexism and misogyny but also light-hearted topics like parenthood and partying!
Slated for release on Friday, March 2, 2018, via Merge Records, Thorn’s fifth is simply titled Record. It opens with its carrier single, the bass-driven New Wave/Synthpop “Queen,” whose comforting pulse and beat will make the loyal listener immediately feel at home; its organic sound may be attributed to the guest participation of Jenny Lee Lindberg (bass) and Stella Mozgawa (drums) of the American Indie band Warpaint on their respective instruments. The same neon-lit Dance sensibility propels the following R&B-flavored “Air” into a quieter and moodier corner of the discothèque, only to prod the listener’s feet once again towards the center of the dancefloor as “Guitar” vibrates its enticing chords.
After that sweat-inducing foray in Club Dance music, Thorn then turns sentimental and sophisticated with the dreamy, hazy, and shimmering grace of “Smoke.” She then follows this up with the undulating rhythm of the almost nine-minute, soulful Electroclash epic “Sister,” featuring the British Singer-Songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae, who gave the song its finesse and allure, complementing Thorn’s self-confident vocal delivery. The vibes then descend to an even slower and more maudlin predisposition with the minimalist drone of “Go.”
The flickering and punchy “Babies” is another compelling Synthpop track, serious at first listen but, upon deeper lyrical inspection, it reveals Thorn’s flair for subtle sarcasm. The second-to-the-last track, “Face” pounds the listener’s chest with its racing bass pulses and Thorn’s words of half hope. Finally, Thorn, with her entourage, closes her latest record with the mesmerizing flare of “Dancefloor,” leaving her last note and final tune right there at the center of where Record began.
For sure, many followers of Everything but the Girl have long been waiting for the next batch of new materials from the creative duo. Unfortunately, this seems still quite far on the foreseeable horizon. Thorn and Watt are obviously taking their sweet time enjoying their respective solo endeavors. So, in lieu of that, why not appreciate what each has been engaging in for the time being? After all, Thorn’s latest musical adventure does not pale in comparison with its predecessors or even with her erstwhile excursions with Everything but the Girl.
Record is virtually steeped with a bit of everything that Thorn and Watt had made as Everything but the Girl – from New Wave, to Electronic Dance, to folky Pop, and a few more things in between. So, practically nothing was lost. Giving Thorn’s new record a spin is not really a bad thing. It is, in fact, rather satisfying. CrypticRock gives Record 4 out of 5 stars.