Released: April 21
Everything But The Girl make a triumphant return with ‘Fuse’ – their first album in more than two decades!
In the years since releasing their 1999 10th album ‘Temperamental’, Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt have worked on various projects individually and while they’ve collaborated behind the scenes – Ben’s label Strange Feeling Records released Tracey’s third solo LP ‘Love and Its Opposite’ in 2010 – ‘Fuse’ marks their first full-length collaboration in almost 25 years.
Conceived during an particularly intense lockdown for the married couple amid the Covid-19 pandemic, during which Ben – who suffers with with the rare autoimmune disease Churg-Strauss syndrome – was under orders to remain isolated, the 10-track set brings the duo’s sound up to date for the 2023 market while carrying through the essence of the act, which made its chart debut four decades ago.
“Ironically the finished sound of the new album was the last thing on our mind when we started in March 2021,” says Tracey of the project. “Of course, we were aware of the pressures of such a long-awaited comeback, so we tried to begin instead in a spirit of open-minded playfulness, uncertain of the direction, receptive to invention.”
Ben adds: “It was exciting. A natural dynamism developed. We spoke in short-hand, and little looks, and co-wrote instinctively. It became more than the sum of our two selves. It just became Everything But The Girl on its own.”
Its an unmistakable sound evident from the opening electronic beats of first track and lead release Nothing Left To Lose; a garage-influenced comeback that harks back to the sounds dominating the charts when EBTG last released music, carried by Thorn’s distinctive vocals that, in evoking a simpler time, generate an undeniable melancholy. It’s reflected in the lyrics: ‘Kiss me while the world decays / Kiss me while the music plays’
Running through the songs is an innate sense of nostalgia, whether eighties-referencing synths on No One Knows We’re Dancing or ideas on the passing of time on Forever, but calls to the past are far from a gimmick; they’re apt reflections on the place Ben and Tracey find themselves in, more than 20 years after their last collaborative album, recapturing the magic of the past for the world today.
But what shines through is the duo’s innovation and drive not to create something obvious. Let’s face it, they could have quite easily taken the commercial path and put out Missing Pt. 2, but instead they sought out a new sound that picks up where they left off in 1999, refined for the more mature subject matter of their lyrics.
The creative reunion and meeting of minds is reflected in the title ‘Fuse’, of which Tracey says: “After so much time apart professionally, there was both a friction and a natural spark in the studio when we began. However much we underplayed it at the start, it was like a fuse had been lit. And it ended in a kind of coalescence, an emotional fusion. It felt very real and alive.”
It’s a sense captured on the album’s intimate ballads When You Mess Up and Interior Space, which began as piano improvisations recorded on Ben’s iPhone. Polished for the album, the final versions capture the natural, organic birth of the tracks with a raw vocal performance from Tracey reminiscent of a latter-day Joni Mitchell.
Revisiting Everything But The Girl after so many years is a bold move from the pair and while the resulting album is nothing short of spectacular, it clearly brought about its own set of questions. ‘Do you sing to heal the broken hearted / Or do you sing to get the party started?’ she sings on the achingly beautiful Karaoke; a dream-like flashback to a night at the bar, surrounded by music, and an observation on its impact on those around her.
They’re questions she addresses at the closing of the song: ‘Do you sing to heal the broken hearted? You know I do,’ admits Tracey. ‘Or do you sing to get the party started? You know I love that too.’
It’s a poignant end to an album that for so long seemed impossible, but in following their creative spark the pair have delivered not only a standout album of 2023, but one of the finest of their entire career.
‘Fuse’ is out now on Buzzin’ Fly / Virgin.