Seven years after her last solo record, Tracey Thorn is back with her new record called “Record”. That’s a record-breaking use of the word record here isn’t it? Anyway, I have always been a fan of her sympathetically quirky voice, ever since the days of Everything But The Girl and their landmark 1984 LP “Eden”.
The new album was produced by Ewan Pearson. The heavy electro-pop is used for a pretty feminine-sounding album, at least what the lyrics are concerned. ”I think I’ve always written songs which chronicle the milestones of a woman’s life”, says Tracey about her new project and adds, “I wanted it to be a record you’d listen to in the daytime. On your headphones or on the move. Not necessarily in the evening, or in your bedroom.” So it really takes some getting used to from the opening number “Queen”, that synth drum sound is certainly not easily accessible, but with Tracey’s warm voice and her songwriting skills, that certain recognition value sets in pretty quick. In fact, eight of the nine perfectly sequenced pop songs are between 2:30 minutes and 4 minutes and thus, are a very welcome change of pace and yes, style for that matter. “Air” reminds me of some of the 80s New Wave sounds from the UK and who can’t relate to the “i need some air” lyric, whether it is meant to be about your own identity or gender or not.
“Guitar”, the short ode to that intimate instrument, is pretty cute and “Smoke” has some folk-inflected elements to it. It’s about her fear of losing the London that she grew up in, to a new London which is only kept alive through money and greed. Could be a song about Berlin and certainly many other cities, too (“London you’re in my blood but I feel you’ve gone wrong”). What I find a bit strange about the production and the sound of the album is the fact that Tracey’s voice very often comes through with a lisp. I really like the melancholy and the church-like organ on “Go” about your kids leaving home, where Tracey sings in a very high-pitched voice and some dramatic drum beats set in with overdubbed vocals. The short “Babies” harks back to the Neue Deutsche Welle of the 80s and “Face” has more of that typical Thorn melancholy to it, complete with a sweet and mellow synth backing. The vocoder vocals on “Dancefloor” and the lyric is a tribute to the days when we all went crazy in the clubs. Here, Tracey remembers “Good Times”, “Let The Music Play”, “Shame”, “Golden Years”, and the like. But the centerpiece on the album is a song which was inspired by the Women’s March in 2017: the 8-minutes plus of “Sister”, with the rhythm section of Warpaint and contributing vocals from Corinne Bailey Rae, is crying out for a house or dub remix even though it already has a lot of club potential with its phat disco sound. Mesmerizing and infectious. If we could only get rid of that lisp.