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


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.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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