Walking Wounded, by Everything But The Girl
One of the consequences of the sudden success of the dance remix of “Missing” was that when English sophisti-pop duo Everything But The Girl came together to create their follow-up album was that it leaned heavily on the techno and what would later become edm music that had brought them their sudden and unexpected popularity. The result is an album that is very clear in its combination of the passionate and evocative singing of Tracey Thorn as well as the hard and cold dance beats of Ben Watt. The result is a bit fascinating. If I do not like this album as much as I like Amplified Heart, I certainly respect it and appreciate where it is coming from. This is not music to dance to as much as it is the music of one’s nightmares of a city life where a couple in a post-breakup situation wonder if they can reunite and make things work again. As the duo is close-lipped about their personal life it is unclear if this album reflects their own personal experiences, but whether it does or not the album is certainly powerful and deeply challenging to the listener about wrestling with being wrong and wanting a second chance that one only appreciates now that it is gone and may be gone forever.
For all of its power, this album is not really all that long in terms of its material. Only 11 songs are included, and two of them are dance remixes of singles from the album tacked on at the end, making only 9 actual songs to tell the story of someone admitting that they were wrong and seeking to return to a relationship that has ended. This point is hammered home over and over again in most of the material here in a way that is not particularly subtle. “Before Today” discusses the realization that one is wrong and expresses the desire to do something about it. “Wrong” then follows and discusses the appeal that is made to return to a past that may have been closed off. “Single” wonders if the narrator and the former partner are better off single or not. “The Heart Remains A Child” bemoans the emotional immaturity that people can have long after they have become adults. “Walking Wounded” discusses the way that people live through their lives in the aftermath of broken relationships as walking wounded. “Flipside” ponders the changes that people have made in the past and the question of whether there will be future changes in the aftermath of present hurts. “Big Deal” is a cynical look at the desire that people have for insight from therapy, again in the aftermath of failed relationships, and the question of whether one’s inner child will like the person who finds him or her. “Mirrorball” reflects on the formation of relationship patterns in one’s youth that carry on to adulthood and how the repercussions of choices echo on. Finally, before the two remixes of “Wrong” and “Walking Wounded” comes “Good Cop Bad Cop,” another song that dwells on the wrongness of living in regret and only seeing what isn’t in one’s life.
If this album did not spur any hit singles in the United States (“Wrong” was a minor hit on the Billboard Hot 100 but failed to reach the top 40), it certainly continued their late-career renaissance on the dance charts and in the UK. There is a lot to appreciate about this album and it is certainly a good one, but I get the feeling I would like the album a lot more if it wasn’t so on-the-nose about the unhappiness of failing to move on and the hopes and fears that one has about admitting one’s fault in a past relationship and seeking another chance. It is hard to avoid the feeling that this album is a deeply autobiographical one for the group and that it marked the reunion of the two on a personal level that later led them to marry and, after one more studio album, go on a lengthy hiatus to raise a family. That said, the group has always been coy about the personal meanings of this album, although its relentless insistence on a very small emotional range of regret and somewhat obsessive rumination on the past and gloomy desire to escape an unpleasant present makes it the sort of album that is best enjoyed in particular moods or by people who can relate to the material and its approach.