Reissue double bill stands as a testament to the vibrancy of 90s electronic music scenes
Who’d have thought that melancholy 80s indie singer-songwriter duo Everything But The Girl would become darlings of 90s club culture? It really was about as improbable as Morrissey embracing Detroit techno, but it only took one record to turn around their whole oeuvre for good. That record was the Todd Terry remix of 1994’s ‘Missing’, which ended up selling three million copies and going Top Five in the UK and the US.
It was when Ben Watt started going to the nascent drum ’n’ bass clubs Speed and Metalheadz that the band’s fate was sealed. A whole new sound for Everything But The Girl was born and the two resulting albums – 1996’s ‘Walking Wounded’ and 1999’s ‘Temperamental’ – represent the high watermark of club music in the 90s, an astounding and optimistic era of sonic innovation. The reissue of these two albums only serves to compound what a golden era it was, especially coming from electronica’s most unlikely protagonists.
‘Walking Wounded’ is undoubtedly the stronger of the pair and anyone who enjoyed the bittersweet lost-on-the-dancefloor mournfulness meets propulsive house beats of Todd Terry’s ‘Missing’ remix will relish ‘Wrong’ with the similar sentiments of longing gliding over kinetic chubby house chords and beats. The title track, co-written and co-produced with Spring Heel Jack, features the same chemistry: Tracey Thorn’s yearning vocal opining love lost and found intertwined with a spangled constellation of beats. It’s no surprise that with their new found immersion in the drum ’n’ bass and house scenes they lined up some stellar remixing talent including Photek and Dillinja, Mood 2 Swing and Deep Dish, names with real insider cachet.
‘Temperamental’ suffers by comparison with ‘Walking Wounded’. It just hasn’t got the same melodic focus and fortitude. Where ‘Walking Wounded’ and its associated mixes still feel fresh, the opener of ‘Temperamental’, ‘Five Fathoms’, just sounds like the sort of generic house music you tend to hear in the background at the hairdressers. It’s too languid and unfocussed, like they’ve taken the successful formula of ‘Missing’ and diluted it too much. The title track itself is a little catchier and more defined, more of a disco stomper with Thorn’s falsetto giving it that authentic mirrorball sound, but otherwise the album comes across as a seamless segue of rather bland house. The vocals are still beguiling, but the production is just too polished and polite for its own good.
It’s not a bad album, it’s just not as strikingly good as ‘Walking Wounded’, which had all the enthusiasm for new genres experienced afresh. Yet again with ‘Temperamental’ they lined up some A-list remixers. Kenny Dope and Fabio manage to create more alluring versions than the originals. My favourite is former Strictly Rhythm golden boys Wamdue Project who create atmospheric drifting deep house magic out of the title cut.
Of the two, ‘Walking Wounded’ is definitely worth having in your collection, ‘Temperamental’ perhaps only if you’re a fanatic for the remixers.