Everything But The Girl - Walking Wounded - Review
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critics' view

It’s hard to reconcile the two distinct phases of Everything But The Girl. The soporific late ’80s strummers who were partial to Simon and Garfunkel covers bear little resemblance to the sophisticated chill-out purveyors they became in the mid ’90s. Todd Terry’s remix of “Missing” on their 1994 album Amplified Heart had hinted at their new direction out of the maudlin and onto the dancefloor. But by the time of this 1996 follow-up, the folk-pop caterpillar was a fully-formed dance butterfly.

There were looped rhythms, two-step mixes and even a fine selection of drum ‘n’ bass beats. What was most amazing wasn’t that Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt had taken this road, but that they were actually better at it than they had been at the downbeat stuff. Thorn’s ennui-ridden voice suited the new sound perfectly – something she had demonstrated the year before with two heart-breaking vocals on Massive Attack’s Protection – and Watt turned his hand to beats like the 4am finish had always been in his blood. Yet something of the old EBTG did linger. Their music may have changed beyond recognition, but its stories and moods still came from the dark, brooding corners of lost love.

The title track was as sparse and desolate as it was rich and beautiful in its juxtaposition of Thorn’s voice and Watt’s beats, and the rest of the album followed a similar pattern. “Wrong” tapped a toe while it pleaded a slightly sinister apology, “Good Cop Bad Cop” felt like a punch and a caress rolled into one, and the aching excellence of “The Heart Remains A Child” was every bit as good a story of desperate love as anything they’d done before.

Oddly, although a fine album, Walking Wounded also heralded the beginning of the end for EBTG, who stumbled on through Best Of compilations and the distinctly average Temperamental over the next seven years. Maybe the transformation was too much for the pair, or, like a butterfly, their life was always meant to be short. Whatever the truth, it was worth it to make sure this album came into being.

Chris Long
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The BBC's album reviews ended in 2013, although the pages are archived for retrospective reading.
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