released May 18th, 2010
from the album - Oh, The Divorces
from all music
One of the most enduring English singer/songwriters since the early '80s, Tracey Thorn began making music with the all-female quartet Marine Girls, a minimalist pop group that released a pair of albums — Beach Party and Lazy Ways — inspired by Young Marble Giants and the Raincoats. She recorded A Distant Shore, a relatively moody, if similarly skeletal solo album, for Cherry Red in 1983, and around that time she met Ben Watt — who was also signed to Cherry Red — and formed a partnership as Everything But the Girl. From 1984 through 1999, Thorn and Watt released ten albums that shifted from indie pop to slick sophisti-pop to downtempo club music. Shortly after having twin daughters together, they put EBTG on ice, as Watt DJed and operated his Buzzin' Fly label while Thorn stayed home with the children. (They had a third child, a boy, in 2001.) After several years of inactivity, Thorn began writing again and recorded her second solo album, Out of the Woods, which was released in early 2007. Instead of working with Watt, she collaborated with a number of producers, including Ewan Pearson, Charles Webster, Cagedbaby, Sasse, and Martin Wheeler. Pearson returned as sole producer of her 2010 effort Love and Its Opposite, an album released by Watt's Strange Feeling label. Throughout the years, she has guested on songs by a number of groups, including the Style Council, the Go-Betweens, Massive Attack, and Tiefschwarz.
After the eight-year recording silence which lasted from the start of Everything But the Girl's indefinite hiatus until Tracey Thorn's triumphant re-emergence as a solo artist on 2007's Out of the Woods, the singer took only three years to return with a follow-up. Love and Its Opposite finds Thorn again working with Berlin-based house producer Ewan Pearson, but it effectively jettisons its predecessor's scintillating electro-pop for a more subdued chamber-folk style akin to that album's quieter moments; it's easily Thorn's least electronic work since EBtG's dramatic danceward shift in the mid-'90s. Then as now, the change of musical scenery hardly disrupts the caliber and sophistication of Thorn's songcraft or the power of her inimitable voice, which remains as gloriously warm as ever. Given that mood and maturity have always been her hallmarks, aging gracefully is scarcely even a concern: now that she's in a position to deliver a set of songs about the complexities of, in her phrase, "real life after forty," it feels utterly natural, a continuation of the emotional navigations she's spent her career documenting with characteristic insight and sensitivity. Stately waltz "Oh, The Divorces!" observes the seemingly inexorable progression of marriages dissolving around her with a creeping unease barely masked by its Sondheim-worthy elegance and verbal wit ("he was a charmer/I wish him bad karma"), and is deftly juxtaposed with the childhood nostalgia of "Long White Dress," concerning a life-long dread of weddings. (Perhaps tellingly, Thorn and EBtG-mate Ben Watt married in 2009, after 28 years of partnership.) On a lighter note, maybe, the bouncy "Hormones" comments breezily on menopause (the singer's) and adolescence (her daughters'), while "Singles Bar" is a wry treatment of aging-singles scenes and all their attendant hope and desperation ("can you smell the fear?"), in a tone that could be bleak or comical or both. Throughout, but especially in her poignant meditations on domestic relationships -- the achingly uncertain "Why Does the Wind" (given a nimble funk backing by Hot Chip bassist Al Doyle and Invisible stickman Leo Taylor), Lee Hazlewood's brooding "C'mon Home to Me" (sung with Jens Lekman), and the quietly self-scrutinizing "Late in the Afternoon" -- Thorn's romanticism is tempered by a hard-earned sense, approached with a mixture of comfort and resignation, that love and its opposite -- fear, perhaps, of loneliness or abandonment or simply death -- aren't truly opposed, but are necessary working complements, each enabling the possibility of the other.
1 Oh, the Divorces! Thorn 4:15
2 Long White Dress Thorn 3:53
3 Hormones Thorn 3:07
4 Kentish Town Thorn 3:29
5 Why Does the Wind? Thorn 5:00
6 You Are a Lover Balazs, Hajos 3:11
7 Singles Bar Thorn 3:28
8 Come on Home to Me Hazlewood 3:33
9 Late in the Afternoon Thorn 3:20
10 Swimming Thorn 4:17