Review: Tracey Thorn’s 'Record' is a timely masterpiece

Have the times finally caught up with Tracey Thorn?

The British singer-songwriter has charmed fans for more than three decades, first as half of Everything but the Girl and, more recently, on her own, crafting clever dance music from her distinctive feminist point of view. In recent years, though, Thorn has sharpened her writing, with two memoirs and a newspaper column, and it shows on her new album, “Record” (Merge).

“I fight like a girl,” she declares in the feminist anthem “Sister,” after revealing, “You trample me like dirt, but I’m used to things that hurt.”

It’s a rallying cry for the #MeToo movement that works well with the sinuous groove from Warpaint and vocal support from the great Corinne Bailey Rae. And, like the rest of Thorn’s “Record,” “Sister” makes a strident point without getting preachy.

She describes herself as “too tall, all wrong, deep voice, headstrong” in “Air,” but the ’80s-styled synths keep things light, even when she reveals, “I loved the boys, but they liked the girlie, girlie, girlie, girlie girls.” Her journey through birth control and women’s reproductive rights manages to stay upbeat and fizzy as the mother of three explains, “I didn’t want my babies, till I wanted babies.”

Thorn builds a wrenching ballad about lost love around checking an ex’s social media accounts in “Face.” “If I just knew for certain that you weren’t having fun, I could bring down the curtain,” she croons after battling self-doubt. “It would prove that I won.”

“Record” is so good, though, that there shouldn’t be any question. Thorn has never sounded timelier, though the music isn’t that different from her 2007 album “Out of the Woods,” or her “Dancefloor” dream playlist of Chic’s “Good Times,” Evelyn “Champagne” King’s “Shame,” David Bowie’s “Golden Years” and Shannon’s “Let the Music Play.” It’s her surroundings that changed.



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