Tracey Thorn: Record review – funny, graceful songs of female power

(Unmade)

Since emerging in John Peel favourites Marine Girls in 1980, Tracey Thorn has been half (with husband Ben Watt) of bedsit/acoustic romantics turned electronic hitmakers Everything But the Girl; written an enthralling memoir, Bedsit Disco Queen; worked with Massive Attack and sported one of pop’s best haircuts. Her fifth solo album returns to the style of EBTG’s subtly pumping anthems, but lyrically delivers what she calls “nine feminist bangers”. The singer-songwriter suggests that Record captures what she calls the “milestones of a woman’s life” – things that “are not always discussed in pop lyrics”.

These range from reflections as her teenage daughters leave for university (the lovely Go) to her tart response to the male gaze and stereotypes of female beauty (Air’s “They liked the girly girls, and looked through me like I wasn’t there”).

Often, though, the songs are politely but firmly delivered expressions of female power. “I fight like a girl,” she purrs on the slinky, clubby Sister, turning an insult into a show of strength and railing against misogyny over a musically sophisticated backdrop. The song – which features Warpaint and Corinne Bailey Rae – is part protest, part anthem of feminine solidarity, but few lyrics capture the #MeToo/post-Weinstein era as succinctly as: “What year is it? The same old shit.” Now 55, Thorn uses her experience and perspective wisely, to ruminate on everything from social media (Face) to fame (the superb, pulsating Queen).

The lyrical mix of emotion and wisdom is matched by the elegant dignity of the soundtrack, and producer Ewan Pearson places Thorn in the lineage of classy electronic torch singers from Alison Moyet to Marc Almond. In the wrong hands, Record’s subject matter could have been heavy going, but these songs are graceful, masterful, airy, bubbly and even a lot of fun. Dancefloor euphorically eulogises the artists that drew her to the disco, while it’s hard not to giggle when Babies playfully romps from contraception to conception to motherhood, and yelling “Get the fuck to bed now” with frustration at trying to get a child to sleep.

Contributor

Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Tracey Thorn: Tinsel and Lights – review
A Christmas album by Tracey Thorn might once have seemed like a hoax, but the surprise is how well it suits her, writes Alexis Petridis

Alexis Petridis

25, Oct, 2012 @2:30 PM

Article image
Tracey Thorn: ‘My fans are too old for selfies’
What’s worth more – the Everything But the Girl singer’s autograph … or her socks?

Peter Robinson

30, Oct, 2015 @12:00 PM

Article image
Tracey Thorn: Record review – grownup feminist bangers
(Unmade Road/Caroline International)

Kitty Empire

04, Mar, 2018 @7:59 AM

Article image
Lila Downs: Salón, Lágrimas y Deseo review – songs of female power

Robin Denselow

22, Jun, 2017 @5:20 PM

Article image
Bedsit Disco Queen by Tracey Thorn – review

This is a modest and sensitive memoir from the Everything But the Girl frontwoman and former Marine Girl, writer Zoe Williams

Zoe Williams

24, Jan, 2013 @7:00 AM

Tracey Thorn: Tinsel and Lights – review
Tracey Thorn's fourth solo LP is about as good as Christmas albums get, writes Paul Mardles

Paul Mardles

27, Oct, 2012 @11:12 PM

Article image
Bedsit Disco Queen by Tracey Thorn – review
Tracey Thorn's memoir lifts the lid on UK pop life with unusual charm and wit, writes Kitty Empire

Kitty Empire

10, Feb, 2013 @8:00 AM

Article image
Tracey Thorn on her first solo mini-album, A Distant Shore

'This work was well received at the time and has proved enduringly popular – I think that's because it's such a passionate record'

As told to Laura Barnett

01, Jan, 2013 @5:00 PM

Article image
Tracey Thorn, Nadine Shah and Peggy Gou top Aim independent music awards
The awards for the best in British independent music acknowledged a wide-ranging series of names, from Goldie to Idles and Sophie

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

04, Sep, 2018 @9:00 PM

Article image
Another Planet: A Teenager in Suburbia by Tracey Thorn – review
Snogs at discos and Saturday shopping ... the Everything But the Girl frontwoman looks back on humdrum days in the spiritual home of English pop

Joe Moran

02, Feb, 2019 @10:00 AM