Three and a bit years after Walking Wounded (reviewed just a few weeks ago on this blog), Everything But The Girl returned with their last album to date, Temperamental (1999). It will be fifteen years old in just a few weeks, which is more than a good enough excuse to listen to it now.
Temeramental opens with the lead single, the deep house Five Fathoms, and it is a contrast from the previous album in every way. Whereas Walking Wounded had been a very clear progression from their folk roots to their new-found electronic sound, this time the vocals are very urban, and music inspired. It’s a great track actually, and the elements come together really well, but it wasn’t exactly the best choice for lead single in the world.
The more laid back Low Tide of the Night follows. Temperamental is an album about going out, and this track describes the darker side of that very well – “when you’re down and troubled you don’t tell your friends, you don’t tell your family.” Then comes the drum & bass – darker this time than anything on the previous album – with the fantastic non-charting second single Blame. The vocals are sparse and haunting, and the beats are heavy and powerful – it’s really an extremely good track.
My favourite moment on this album is Hatfield 1980, with its beautiful piano counter-melody, in which Tracey Thorn describes what I imagine is her life in London in the early 1980s. It’s still rather dark though – I had wondered whether this might have been a better choice for the lead single, but maybe not.
The third single was the title track Temperamental, although they used a pretty awful light house remix as the lead version. The original is probably the most “pop” track on the album, although it’s still haunted by a degree of deep house melancholy. The weird vocal samples which form the main melody take a bit of getting used to, but it’s a really good track. Perhaps this should have been the lead single?
Side B is, for the most part, less varied, and honestly less exciting too. The largely instrumental Compression leads onto Downhill Racer, at just under four minutes the shortest track on the album. By no means are any of these bad tracks, but they don’t quite generally grab you in the way that some of the others might.
Lullaby of Clubland, the last single in the US, is the standout track on this half of the album, and it also came with a stunning array of remixes when it was released. It’s a bit of a welcome surprise too – by this point in the album you might be starting to feel as though you’ve heard everything it has to offer, but clearly not.
The penultimate track No Difference follows, another short one relatively speaking, and again quite unlike anything else on this release. As the late night rain falls and Tracey Thorn‘s haunting but slightly chirpy vocal drifts over the gentle backing, you realise that Everything But The Girl have really pulled it out of the bag with another great album.
Temeramental finally draws to a close with a slightly edited version of the 1998 collaboration with Deep Dish The Future of the Future (Stay Gold). It’s another of the best tracks on this album, and you can see how it might have helped shape the sound of this release, with its deep house beats and weird electronic squelches. As the closing piece, it’s pretty much perfect.
In the fifteen years which have passed since, both Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt have been active with various projects, but there’s been nothing new from them as a duo. Which does add to the mystique of their handful of albums, but it’s a great shame too. Let’s hope they return soon.