Everything But the Girl – ‘Walking Wounded’ – Round 85 – Graham’s Choice

What to bring to Round 85?

Simple really. During the week after the 1280x1280
clocks go back and on a wet and miserable night outside, a CD that has drifted through doors, windows, cars and holidays all summer, seemed like the perfect antidote.

I have no history with EBtG, other from thinking they sounded “nice enough”. I’m not even sure that I’ll explore them any further, but this impulse purchase of their 1996 album,  has just hit the spot all summer.

There’s a style of drum n bass I’d probably normally avoid, but somehow the cleanness/expression/lack of expression/control (we spent a long time searching for the right word and never found it) of Tracey Thorn’s delivery and the wash of keyboards over the top just makes it work superbly. That same delivery held me back from exploring their more acoustic/jangle pop work in the past as the fit just didn’t seem as good. The remix of ‘Missing’ from the previous album caught my attention back in those days as something more interesting.

There are huge slices of melancholy, loneliness and regret amongst the lyrics, but somehow the groove moves you positively through the whole album without bringing the listener down with it.

Maybe in Record Club terms this album represent the closure of a circle (note to self, there must be a great prog’ song somewhere called “Closure of a circle”, seek and deploy next round). Probably started with, ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ at Round 53 (unlikely to be ever written up for many reasons), ‘Vs’ Round 58 and ended up with this at Round 85. Funnily enough 85 is 58 fully turned around,  on that bombshell…..

Nick listened: This was great. I’m hoping I can find a copy for £1.99 like Graham did, because I want to own it. I enjoyed the singles enough (nearly 20 years ago!) as I was just starting to engage with music outside the realm of indie guitar nonsense, but the intervening years (and the education my ears have undergone) have made this sound richer and deeper. And if the (frankly gorgeous) drum programming and synth sweeps date this – almost to the month for connoisseurs, I’d wager – then the songwriting and delivery balance that out by being timeless. Brilliant.

Rob listened: Nick, I may be able to save you a couple of quid. I have a funny feeling I’ve got two copies of ‘Walking Wounded’. Tom’s theme for next time threatens to drive me into the loft to delve amongst the CDs, so I’ll have a look under ‘E’ while I’m there.

I remember this coming out, in fact I think I reviewed it at the time. Most of my reviews from back then are lost to the mists of time, fortunately. However, if forced to speculate, I think I would have been sniffy about ‘Walking Wounded’ for all the laziest reasons. I would have had EBTG down as dancefloor arrivistes, sliding themselves into the scene at just the point where it moved from the warehouse to the dinner party. All this as if I knew anything about drum and bass beyond half a dozen records…

There is a line of enquiry around the gentrification of underground dance music, with the co-opting of hardcore and jungle, those most explosively disruptive scenes, sitting at centre stage, but listening to ‘Walking Wounded’ now, and every time it’s come back around since it was released, the love and devotion for the music is plain the see. Fair enough, it feels lightweight (or perhaps simply light on its feet) but it’s also exquisite, bristling with a burnished sonic sheen, sprung tight by delicately constructed beats and all washed over by Tracey Thorn’s rich, refreshingly unshowy vocals. As Nick says, it may be very easy to carbon date ‘Walking Wounded’, but nonetheless, the older it gets, the better it sounds.

Tom listened: I had always discounted Everything But The Girl as being far too fey and whimsical to ever consider choosing to listen to. Of course, Tracey Thorn has crept into my record collection through the back door as she is a guest vocalist on Massive Attack’s Protection album (and her voice works fine there, although I always wished it had a bit more soulful depth to it…I guess I just missed Shara Nelson’s vocals). But I have never actively sought out an Everything But The Girl record (the band’s name itself is a total turn off to me) and, from the occasional clip I heard on the radio, their early stuff sounded exactly as I would have imagined. Not for me.

Walking Wounded came as a very pleasant surprise though. I liked Tracey Thorn’s voice on here – her unemotive (some less kind persons might say flattish) singing slots straight into the colder landscapes of drum and bass led trip hop and the whole album drifted by in a relatively captivating blur – if that’s not a contradiction in terms! I certainly preferred it to other, similar, fare (Lamb, Beth Orton, Morcheeba) who were releasing records around this time.

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