Album Reviews

Tracey Thorn – Love And Its Opposite

(Strange Feeling) UK release date: 17 May 2010

Tracey Thorn - Love And Its Opposite Thirty years since she first started her recording career with The Marine Girls, Tracey Thorn seems to have struck upon the perfect work/life balance.

Everything But The Girl may have been on indefinite hiatus for over a decade now, but she’s kept herself busy raising her children, and collaborating with artists such as Massive Attack and The Unbending Trees.

An album in Thorn’s own name is always a welcome event. Out Of The Woods, Thorn’s 2007 album, saw her continue her flirtation with electronic/dance music. Employing as producer Ewan Pearson, the man behind names such as Delphic, Ladytron and M83, would suggest more of the same is in order this time round.

Surprisingly though, Love And Its Opposite is a more downbeat affair than its predecessor. There are still numbers that would sound perfectly at home at the local nightclub, but the standout tracks have a sadness and a fragility that are quite haunting.

Much of that, of course, is down to Thorn’s exquisite voice. She’s proved over the years that she can handle any genre of music, but she’s never sounded more at home amongst the plaintive piano chords and soft strings of the opening Oh The Divorces!, featuring such bittersweet lyrical delights as “he was a charmer, I wish him bad karma”.

It strikes a lyrical tone that remains throughout the album – although Thorn eventually married her EBTG partner Ben Watt last year (after a 27 year engagement), there are many songs here focusing on divorce, failed relationships and the passage of time.

Some of the character studies within these songs are the equal of the best of Kirsty MacColl. Singles Bar is a touchingly sad, yet sympathetic, portrait of a middle-aged woman’s ever more desperate search for true love by trawling her local bar (“Can you tell how long I’ve been here? Can you smell the fear?”).

There’s also the affecting mother to daughter tale of Hormones, with lines like “You worry about growing up, I worry about letting go” delivered perfectly by Thorn. Divorce rears its head again on the downtempo Long White Dress, but the album’s closing track Swimming seems to provide some redemption and hope amongst all the angst.

She’s also lost none of her ability to reinterpret other people’s songs, with the cover of The Unbending Trees‘ You Are A Lover being a particular highlight. The appearance of Swedish troubadour Jens Lekman on the rendition of the Lee Hazlewood classic Come On Home To Me also adds an atmospheric touch.

Some tracks may dip into generic mid-tempo dancefloor fodder, such as Why Does The Wind, but overall this is up there with some of Thorn’s best work since Everything But The Girl. Give her another couple of years and she could well be eligible for national treasure status.

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