Owned since: 2008
Genre: Jazzy bossa nova indie pop
Where I bought it: A one euro bin somewhere
Label/pressing: Blanco Y Negro
It’s funny to look at some bands only in their mainstream or hit success. In this field, Everything But the Girl are very much a one hit wonder even though they had various other smaller hits. The song everyone knows is Missing in the Todd Terry remix, a classic of every 90’s themed radio station and one of the weird intermixes of dance music and the 80’s indie rock generation that happened around that time. It’s a great song overall, even more so in the original version on the band’s 1994 effort Amplified Heart where it’s full of cowbell and flamenco guitar backing Tracey Thorn’s unique vocals. That record already was toying a lot with electronic influences, which even started earlier with 1991’s Worldwide.
The band was like Fountains of Wayne, named after a store. This one selling everything for the bedroom BUT not the girl in typical nudge nudge joke fashion. Starting after Tracey Thorn split from twee pop pioneers Marine Girls and released her tremendous solo effort A Distant Shore. Musical mastermind behind the band Ben Watt worked with Kevin Coyne on his debut EP, recorded the wonderful Summer Into Wine with prog/art rock legend Robert Wyatt and released North Marine Drive before forming the band. Both solo efforts by the band members are very much blueprints for the band’s sound; North Marine Drive is a wonderful kind of lo-fi record full of bossa nova/Les Paul guitar playing and Watt’s near talking vocals. A Distant Shore is full of a sound not too far removed from this with the same kind of jazz night club guitars and arrangements which also showcases that kind of warm echo sound that would become the sound of 90’s (American) twee pop bands like The Softies.
Eden is the band’s debut record, released after a single where they do a cover of Cole Porter’s Night and Day, and it honestly couldn’t spot a better album title. It sounds like a 1940’s nightclub act mixing up with the more softer moments of Brazilia’s 60’s MPB more modern form of bossa nova movement but very much is its own thing. A relaxing unique sound in a field full of the most minimal and abrasive of post-punk and predating most of the sophistipop records where the band kind of gets included in. I personally always felt they for sure were doing something a lot less rock/band focused then most of those acts but you can slot it in quite nicely beside Prefab Sprout’s Steve McQueen. While that album and loads of sophistipop heavily borrow from soul music, Everything But The Girl replaces it with a love for the most bargain bin of 40’s/50’s night club jazz records. You hear bits of Chet Baker’s relaxed low vocals in Watt and Thorn’s, recalling a literal slate of then long gone popular jazz singers like a less dramatic Dina Shore.
Mostly minimally backed by jazz drummers (including This Heat’s Charles Hayward), horns and saxophone, Watt’s tremendous guitar playing and a very minimal bass guitar this still feels like a record that is impossible to place in any time zone. Some of the production recalls the 80’s and even some songs slightly recalls their most famous label mates at the time, The Jesus and The Mary Chain. Honestly, throw a ton of distortion over Another Bridge and it would perfectly fit on any record post Darklands. A lot of the strength of the band lies in this; while clearly getting a lot of inspiration from the past, it very much also adapts the music to a more modern style. It nicely changes up an album that sometimes comes really close to being a bit too relaxed for its own good but then throws a curveball like the near bebop jazziness instrumental of Crabwalk.
In the end, Eden is like the rest of the band’s output; a really interesting mix between jazz music and indie pop. Something that they would keep up for their career and by slowly adding influences from rock music and electronic music broadening their sound to a hit. That remix showcases the band pretty well, but still misses a part of its history. Eden is very much a debut of a record, even for such a smooth record it has some rough edges, but it’s also an extremely defined sound for a band’s first effort. Still holds up tremendously to this day, so brew some coffee and go sit outside in the sun with this playing. It’s always a good idea.
Everythought But The Sloot: Being more familiar with their later efforts, this was a surprising slice of Burt Bacharach style lounge pop, down to the bossa nova tinge. Great stuff.