Quite what these two Everything But The Girl records would have sounded like had Todd Terry’s sleeping giant remix of ‘Missing’ not gradually conquered the world in the mid-Nineties is anybody’s guess. In the accompanying sleevenote with the remastered and expanded edition of ‘Walking Wounded’, Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn recall “we were of a mind to make a follow-up to ‘Amplified Heart’ that expanded on its folk-breakbeat template.” The record was to involve Brad Wood, an engineer known for his work with Tortoise and The Sea and Cake. However intriguing that sounds twenty years on, the influence of the electronic scene into which the duo were thrust still had a positive and enduring impact.
Bolstered at the time by further frothy house remixes by the afore-mentioned American DJ, but launched with the drum ’n’ bass tinged title track, their folk-pop safety net was cast aside for the nine songs that made up the first of these two records. Despite the shifting textures, which seem a lot less out there in 2015 than they did in 1996, their knack for insistent melodies and Thorn’s wonderfully understated vocals remained. ‘The Heart Remains A Child’ is a truly beautiful bit of mid-paced pop: a rustling percussive loop paired with keening acoustic guitar and an aching lyric. ‘Flipside’ features a fabulously misaligned double-tracked vocal atop a woozy, stuttering beat, while ‘Mirrorball’ feels like a logical evolution of their older sound.
Three years later and it no longer feels like the pair are keeping a foot in their past. ‘Temperamental’ didn’t have the same commercial heft as its predecessor and failed to leave its mark, despite containing several of the band’s finest songs. ‘No Difference’ is a wonderful late-night walk in the rain, mid-paced brooder crying out for a dimly lit movie scene to keep company, while ‘The Future Of The Future (Stay Gold)’, in collaboration with Deep Dish, feels like the logical successor to the remixed magic of ‘Missing’. A euphoric house track with a glorious melody and some neat electronic burbling, it concluded the original album and, in so doing, concluded Everything But The Girl’s career.
These sensitively remastered reissues, the final pair in a campaign covering their entire catalogue, augment the original records with an assortment of remixes, live performances and unreleased material. Most of the latter take the form of demos, but the previously unheard ‘Above The Law’ is appended to ‘Walking Wounded’ and sounds like a curious blend of all of the album’s different sounds in one. However, ‘Temperamental’ off-cut ‘Come In’ seems like it’s still missing its main vocal and is insubstantial. The assortment of remixes are of a wildly varying pedigree, as anyone who spent the Nineties buying multi-formatted singles will convincingly attest.
These beautifully presented packages are a fine way to rediscover two rather forgotten Nineties treasures that still have plenty to offer. ‘Walking Wounded’ is the superior set, but both show how the band had hit upon a sound that truly suited them only to call it a day.
‘Walking Wounded’ 8/10
Words: Gareth James
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