It’s not really a comeback. Not really. For one thing, Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt – the component units of Everything But The Girl – haven’t exactly lost touch. The two married in 2008, and while the group have been inactive, the odd release (a non-EBTG cover of The xx, for example) has emerged. But let’s just it’s pretty close to a comeback. And as far as not-really-a-comeback-but-sort-of events go, ‘Fuse’ is up there with the best of them – a graceful, majestic, moving experience, one that dips into club tropes while illuminating pop at its iciest, and most arresting.
The duo’s first album since 1996 LP ‘Walking Wounded’ opens with recent single ‘Nothing Left To Lose’, an emphatic experience in its own right. The production has a sharpness, a raw quality, one that echoes Tracey Thorn’s magnificent vocal. It’s older, for sure, but this lived-in aspect was always a factor in their music – everyday dioramas that captured life at its realest.
The glacial ‘Run A Red Light’ takes you down another path, a tale of club wisdom and post-midnight life lessons that demurs: “forget the morning / this is tonight…” ‘Caution To The Wind’ meanwhile offers a disco sheen, its clipped electronics and analogue synths offset by the purest of melodies.
The group’s earlier work has a more reverent jazz quality, and this comes back to the fore with ‘When You Mess Up’ – a brooding, husked performance, one brimming in emotional impact. Tracey Thorn’s career is replete with highlights, but the way she delivers the line “for God’s sake have another cigarette…” ranks with the most dramatic, and impactful.
‘Time & Time Again’ veers into 80s pop aspects, recalling at times their peers in downcast British musicality Pet Shop Boys. ‘Lost’ goes for the gut, while the glitz of ‘Forever’ offers shards of light amid the darkness. Closing with the emphatic one-two of ‘Interior Space’ and ‘Karaoke’ this isn’t just a match for former glories, it also stands as one of the best albums Everything But The Girl have put their name against. A rich, atmospheric song cycle, it has the emotional heft of The Blue Nile and the production nous of Massive Attack. In the end, it could only be Everything But The Girl.
Words: Robin Murray