TRACEY THORN | Out of the Woods | Virgin Records
At their mid-’90s peak, Everything But the Girl turned out albums and remix singles of sterling house, drum-&-bass and electro-based music. Steel-strong melodies and sharp-eyed lyrics anchored production that was increasingly attuned to the shape-shifting sounds of underground club life. Flash to now, and Ben Watt is one of the most acclaimed, in-demand remixers and DJs on the dance-music circuit. And partner Tracey Thorn, with whom Watt also has a family, has just dropped a solo CD, Out of theWoods, that means to pick up where the duo left off. Unfortunately, it’s a B-minus effort. Despite subject matter that includes small-town gay-baiting (“A-Z”) and quite a few moody songs about the downside of love, there are too few truly memorable melodies here. And with the exception of two short, exquisite ballads (“Hands Up to the Ceiling” and “By Picadilly Station I Sat Down and Wept”) the lyrics here are also pretty pedestrian — “Look at this hole inside your heart/it’s like the grand canyon” — largely lacking the novelist’s keen eye that made EBTG songs stick in the memory. Cold, state-of-the-gadgetry production overshadows Thorn’s lovely vinegar-&-cream vocals. Only on the ’80s retro synth-pop of “Raise the Roof” and the Pet Shop Boysish “It’s All True” does the CD remind you that the mousy, laid-back Thorn has a kick-ass club diva lurking behind her downcast eyes.