Ayo Jegede
reviews editor
February 14, 2004
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Rock Music Reviews
Everything But The Girl
Walking Wounded

you can't really hate Liz Phair. sure, her bizarre switch from the lo-fi masterpiece of Exile in Guyville to her current Michelle Branch/Vanessa Carlton cyclops flummoxed her fans, but the resultant work was actually well done. of course i'm not speaking of it artistically--she made an album which belongs to the 8th Level of Hell (following Chris Matthews but right before Good Charlotte)--but who am i to judge? i already deplore that sector of pop outright so to call it a bad album would be like calling a Neil Young synth rock record a bad idea. the point is that you can't fault the artist for suiting a genre's (admittedly myopic) artistic requisites. while Liz Phair threw down indie/lo-fi for the trifectate songwriting group responsible for 70% of the fodder floating on the radio--the Matrix--Everything But the Girl transformed the dance/club scene from nebulous space of plateaued 4/4 to a booming sidereal sky.

you may remember EBTG because of the Todd Terry remix of 'Missing' or Thorn's performance on Massive Attack's Protection, but before all that Watt and Thorne were a highly reputable folk duo from Hull, England. though much public accolade and critical reverence was showered for Idlewild and Amplified Heart, they were very much darlings of an esoteric underground. with the monumental success of Terry's 'Missing' remix, Watt and Thorn were faced with two recourses: either hit the dance floor running, probably vexing their old fans, or stick with the underground folk gig and let the cacophony about 'Missing' die down. i think when they chose the former the point was to bring as many people as possible into the fold, both old and new, by not simply conforming to the genre's conventions as Liz Phair or Jewel had done. Walking Wounded is a masterpiece in that respect, effectively bridging what could have been an artistically moribund chasm for one side of their fan base.

Walking Wounded opens with 'Before Today' and 'Wrong,' two songs which are notable for staying in the same emotive loci as their folk and acoustic albums. it shows that though they may have hit the dance floor, they'd rather talk and think over a drink than sweat with the googolplex of dance groups who not only hit the floor, but eroded it. 'Single' emerges as one of the strongest tracks and exhibits Thorn in her essence: painfully remorseful or despondent, one can still hear moments of warmth in her voice. it's as though she's speaking through herself as though it were therapeutic, raising amazingly potent questions with a single couplet: 'If no one calls and I don't speak all day/Do I disappear?' Watt not only assimilates dance at this stage and presents it in a new light, but is also willing to move past it. the last two tracks, both remixes, show Watt experimenting with more straightforward sounds that would be found on their 1999 return, Temperamental.

Release date: May 21, 1996
Label: Atlantic / Wea
Rating: 9.5 / 10

[RMR]