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Its hard to say when or why Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn became such national treasures as there was a time in the late 80’s where they were in severe danger of being shot for crimes against music. Their early solo albums and the first flush of Everything But The Girl before it all got bogged down in gloopy sentimentality probably saved them from the chop.
Ben Watt’s only other solo album ‘North Marine Drive’ is a lovely thing; a counterpart to Tracey’s unsurpassable ‘A Distant Shore’, its a jazz inflected, windswept bedsit classic. Fast forward 30 odd years and this follow up is much more ‘adult’ themed, understandable given the years that have passed but the overall sound too often straddles a safe MOR territory. Opener ‘Hendra’ is nice enough with a lovely Nick Drake-like chord progression and woody double bass. The first alarm bells ring with the Americanized pronounciation of ‘again’ as ‘agayyyyyn’ before we hit the lilting rock of ‘Forget’ which isn’t that different from the recent War On Drugs album with the spectre of Dire Straits always lurking, guitarist Bernard Butler has been given carte blanche to explore his inner Knopfler and his busy twiddlings often seems surplus to requirements.
‘Spring’ showcases Watt as a decent enough vocalist, still I’d be happier with a less fussy arrangement. ‘Golden Ratio’ is the first track that even half way recalls ‘North Marine Drive’ with its sumptous jazzy chords and smokey atmosphere, we’re deep into John Martyn territory here and lovely moments abound (particularly ‘The Levels’ with Pink Floyd's Dave Gilmour twiddling away) but the tasteful, earnest, middle aged singer songwriter feel prevents a full recapture of past glories.
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