Review

Everything But The Girl

Fuse

Virgin • 2023

Even though the much-vaunted nineties are supposed to have been the most musically exciting decade of all time, quite a few of its pop hits sound stale and predictable in 2023. In the last few years, permanent airplay and countless anaemic copycat remixes alone have turned songs that once moved people to tears into irritating noise. Ever since Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt turned a veritable corner in their careers in the summer of 1994 with their folk-laden sophisti-pop on »Amplified Heart« and their global hit »Missing«, their tears have never stopped. The Todd Terry remix of »Missing« in particular continues to be a wonderful way to indulge in nostalgia and ponder the past – the paradoxical pathos of youthful romance finds a touching soundtrack here, even in the new twenties. 

The fact that the duo subsequently achieved two highly successful downtempo gems with excellent album-length song-writing is only mentioned in passing. 24 years later, »Fuse« marks the next change in course, the next pearl. Perhaps more experimental than ever, Everything But The Girl show with impressive confidence that they still know how to pull off musical dares in the context of warm, organic compositions. Watt’s refined arrangements know a thousand flattering ways to caress Thorn’s textured timbre, brimming with clarity and confidence on the opening track »Nothing Left To Loose« as well as the spacey balancing act between the contemporary and the nostalgic on »Time & Time Again« or the soulful closing track »Karaoke«. A lot is attempted on this album, almost everything succeeds. 

Not only because Ben Watt is now a seasoned producer, DJ and label owner of Buzzin’ Fly, who has understood, lived and developed his craft for thirty years. The dynamic between him and his wife has also reached a new zenith on »Fuse« – not least as evidenced by the title of this comeback. It is the beginning of something new, documented by songs that have lost none of their charisma even after twenty years.