For those without long memories, Everything But the Girl is a British duo that first emerged in the early 1980s as a kind of neo-jazz band combining Tracey Thorn’s virtuoso but downcast vocals with Ben Watt’s terrific guitar playing. Over the next 15 years, they changed dramatically in different styles, from the Smiths-style strumming alt-rock to the chic pop of “The Language of Life,” but with 1994’s “Amplified Heart,” electronics made their way into the latest jazz trio. ish incarnation. And when house producer Todd Terry’s dance-floor remix of that album’s track “Missing” became a surprise global hit, Watt quickly embraced the then burgeoning UK drum n’ bass scene, and within months nearly all record companies had it covered. was behind it. live sets of the band. The next two albums, “Walking Wounded” and “Temperamental”, developed this sound with beats and atmospheric keyboards that laid the groundwork for Thorn’s increasingly soulful singing.
Then, contrary to what such situations usually take, Thorn and Watt tied the band in 1999 but remained together as a couple, started a family, and released occasional solo albums for the next 24 years.
So it was no small surprise to learn earlier this year that they had not only reformed the band, but also just finished a new album – and in many ways, it’s even better to hear that it’s basically picking up where it left off. Thorn’s voice is deeper and more experienced, his energy is a little more restrained, he has a few more ballads, but his smooth and stylish electronic beats and textures are consistent with all his work. The songs go beyond the style in which they work; it’s a tribute not only to their songwriting, but also to their music-making skills that don’t seem outdated. “Walking Wounded” and “Temperamental” may have embraced the dance trends of the mid and late 1990s, but they aged much better than most records from that era.
Likewise, the sounds here are conveyed by the eras of electronic music that have passed since the duo’s last album – there’s dubstep and even autotune flashes on the house base – but it’s not tied to any of that. As usual, often moody and sometimes downright maudlin – one of the leading trademark Thorn words “Kiss me as the world rots”; the closing “Karaoke” has a sardonic reference to the start of the party – but about half of the album consists of low-key songs; Even the impulsive opening, “Nothing Left to Lose,” gives a glimpse of the old Eurythmics. But the only thing that feels outdated about this album is the cover art (it looks like a flyer for 1990s Florida rave).
Like all the band’s recordings, the songs transcend the sound and “Fuse” finds this veteran band as vital as ever.