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Tracey Thorn - Record (Album Review)

Friday, 09 March 2018 Written by Jacob Brookman

If it weren’t for the xx, specifically Romy Madley Croft, you could probably describe Tracey Thorn’s musical oeuvre as completely unique within British music. Her sultry style and low-slung melodies have hovered elegantly just outside of the mainstream for nearly 40 years.

While her fifth solo album is consistent with the retro EDM sound of recent releases, it’s a frequently joyous collection characterised by detailed, terse melody writing and smashy old school flourishes. It demonstrates deft and able songcraft from a multi-disciplinary artist with a great deal to give.

Standout moments include the swaggering album midpoint, Sister, which features Corinne Bailey Rae on backing vocals. It is a cool mid-tempo shuffler, adorned with rata-tat-tat timbale and elegant cowbells that give the song trance-inducing power.

It shows Thorn’s textural and arrangement nous and - on an album of taut songs with neat melodies - acts as a kind of sprawling spiritual happening, clocking in at nearly nine minutes.

Elsewhere, Thorn speaks of motherhood with great detail and intrigue on Babies. “I didn’t want my babies,” she declares. “Until I wanted babies. And when I wanted babies, nothing else would do but babies.”

This theme is revisited on Go, a track which describes her kids now leaving for university: “To wave you out the door, it’s what my love was for.” It’s an under-served subject within pop and Thorn covers it with a compellingly light touch.

If there is a major criticism, it is that the disco sound of ‘Record’ is not always convincing. Even a collab with EDM producer du-jour Shura does not quite amaze. Thorn’s most famous song (by a country mile) is the Todd Terry remix of Everything but the Girl’s Missing - a global smash that repositioned the group as a dance act.

But the power of that song was in its currency and originality. Thorn has never really been an electro act with the same expertise as Alison Moyet, Erasure or Depeche Mode, and occasionally, on ‘Record’, that shows. Great songwriting, though.

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