Published on 25 April 2023 at 07:35

By Paul Laird

Author of "The Birth And Impact Of Britpop: Mis-Shapes, Scenesters And Insatiable Ones"


A long time ago, before I became the man I never wanted to be. Before dreams were dashed.  Before hope was placed just out of reach. Before age, and experience, withered me. Before the  beginning of the end, and the end of the beginning. Before all of that… 


A few months before my 12th birthday I was given a copy of “Love Not Money” by Everything But  The Girl. 


Who gave it to me? 

I can’t remember. 

It’s so long ago. 

It’s too long ago. 


It was the first album I owned that wasn’t previously owned by my parents. I sat on the edge of my bed, and on the edge of young manhood, looking at the cover. Staring at it. 


The desolate wasteland. 

Something bleak and industrial. 

Slate grey skies. 

Even greyer buildings. 

Two little boys, huddled around a crater. 

A puddle. 

Are they? 


But it does look like they might be… 



At twelve the whole thing was utterly beguiling, and even more utterly confusing. Arty innit. 

Now I think that those two little boys had just the right idea. 

Pissing all over this rotten life. 

Wash it clean. 

Start all over again. 





Here we all are a hundred years later, two hundred years older. 


Everything But The Girl are back for the first time since 1999’s “Temperamental”. That’s nearly a  quarter of a century ago. It's been even longer since Tracy Thorn formed Stern Bops and Marine Girls,  and since Ben Watt released his first single on Cherry Red. 


Age has not withered them. 


“Fuse” is that most rare of beasts, a comeback album that isn’t a comeback, a return to form from  artists who never lost their form, new music from people who are not new to music. What is the  word I am looking for…perfect? 

The easy thing to do is to describe “Fuse” as their best album. 

I’m so very lazy. 

I’m not twelve now. 


The impact of “When All’s Well” on my prepubescent self can never be again. That’s good. 

Some things should only happen once. 

But there can be no doubt that this is the sound of musicians, writers, artists, operating at the  very peak of their powers. Driven not, I think, by any desire to be top of the pops, to find their  beautiful faces on the cover of Smash Hits (God, I miss Smash Hits), but instead to create  something pure.  


Sometimes that search for purity leads to coffee table art. 

This isn’t music for coffee tables. 

This is music for, and from, the heart. 

This is the sound of the alternative. 


The alternative to electronic music made by people who don’t understand that it isn’t enough to  be able to use GarageBand. 


The alternative to the sort of twee “soul baring” mush that so regularly tops the charts, instead  souls are bared authentically, poetically, and tenderly.  


Is it a reunion album? 

I dunno. 

I am reunited with them, with the child who first fell in love with them, and with some parts of  myself that I had forgotten about. 

Will that do? 

That will do.


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