Review: Tracey Thorn Album ‘Record’ Inspires in Upbeat Feminist Style




Tracey Thorn

By DAN MACINTOSH

Tracey Thorn recently joked how her new Record is “nine feminist bangers.” And yes, there is a distinct feminist angle to these danceable “bangers.” However, a more apt description would be to term it a bright, enjoyable new project from a (slightly) aging, unlikely diva.

Thorn is an unlikely diva because she just doesn’t look or act the part. She came out of the duo Everything But The Girl, which evolved from an introspective folkish act in the early ’80s into a more club-friendly duo. Record was produced by Ewan Pearson, known for his electronic music production and remixes of artists Ladytron, Depeche Mode, The Chemical Brothers, among others.

Pearson does a good job of making a mostly electronic record still sound warm. “Guitar,” for example, gets nostalgic for the “boy” that taught Thorn how to play guitar. These lessons opened her up to a whole new world; a world filled with the wonders of music. And this music was the good stuff, as Thorn namedrops both “A Teenager in Love” and Leonard Cohen. Even with a six-string in its title, this track is nevertheless a bouncy synth-pop track with just a little guitar. Thorn also sings about the changes she’s seen in London with “Smoke,” which will always be in her blood. Even so, she worries, “I feel you going wrong.” “Face” is a dark look at social network flirting. With it, the protagonist flirts with temptation while skeptically weighing any romantic prospects.

Tracey Thorn, Corinne Bailey Rae are ‘Sisters’

The most feminist of these songs may be “Sister,” which also features Corinne Bailey Rae singing on it. With it, Thorn sings about both thinking and fighting like a girl. And it’s primarily the feminism of frustration and impatience. “Oh, what year is it?” she asks sarcastically, “still arguing the same shit.” The #metoo movement is nothing new, of course; it’s just been more publicized of late. While the track is a tasty combination of various electronic sounds, it also features a driving electric guitar part.

Thorn has a distinctive voice, which is why she was always easy to pick out on guest spots with The Style Council, Massive Attack and others. She also has deceptively wide range, as the quietly, thoughtful “Go” finds her singing in enjoyable falsetto in places.

About the only complaint one might level at Record is that it’s over too soon. Its length is more in line with those pre-CD days, back when only nine songs wouldn’t have seemed unusual. But then again, there’s also no filler, no fat here. Every song might honestly be characterized as a banger, as nothing even comes close to disappointing.