I spent the early part of my 20s in a severe state of depression about the state of human relationships and it was all the fault of ‘Too Happy’, a track on ‘A Distant Shore’, Tracey Thorn‘s first solo album.*
So, any return to an acoustic collection, while a welcome change from the electronica which mar(r)ked the last album, was viewed by me with a certain amount of trepidation – not least when the theme is divorce and heartbreak.
I needn’t have worried – our Tracey’s in rude health both personally and professionally. The title of this third solo album itself is both thoughtful and clever – what is the ‘opposite’ of love? Lust? Fear? Possessiveness? Worry? Loneliness? All, quite clearly are possible opposites to the conventional one in a mature world – and all are dealt with in a set of songs that feature tenderness, humour and Tracey’s trademark wry, but sharp, observation and compassion. As well as guitars, piano and strings and, over-riding it all, that voice – which remains as rich, deep, evocative and coolly analytical as ever: the embodiment of exhilarating sadness. Some of the lyrics might jar occasionally, but the vignettes presented are timeless and honest studies of people’s instinct and thirst for survival, whatever the mess they make of their lives and their relationships: the desire to get back on the dancefloor and have another go, to keep on trying.
And if all this lyricism sounds a bit much, the tunes are largely upbeat, hummable and recall the rhythms and beats of the electronica with which Everything But The Girl revived its career and which dominated Tracey’s last set – but, essentially, without its plinky-plink tinniness. In short, this seems like a progression: going back to go forwards. More please, Tracey – and soon.
* An album I still play plenty, by the way – though I’m better now 😉