Album Review – Ben Watt

Ben Watt

Ben Watt -‘Fever Dream.’ (Unmade Road)


That’s the thing that hits you first about Ben Watt’s third solo album. He’s made so many records and diverse ones over a career now into its fourth decade, and not so much dabbled as embraced many styles over that time. Yet what they all have in common is the ability to produced music that connects with the heart.

There’s no question that for many he’s the male half of the excellent Everything But The Girl duo with wife Tracey Thorn. While she sang lead vocals on many tracks, he took lead on a few – ‘The Night I Heard Caruso Sing’ from 1988’s album Idlewild is one of the best songs in their catalogue, for example. And even before he formed EBTG, he was working with his hero Robert Wyatt.

And that’s perhaps the starting point for this album. It’s not that this is a record that sounds retro, but rather it connects with the likes of Wyatt and other artists of a similar pedigree: Richard Thompson, John Martyn and Nick Drake. It’s hard to pick a standout track, because it’s one very impressive whole, but perhaps album opener ‘Gradually.’ Or maybe ‘Winter’s Eve’. Ask me when I play this album yet again and I might give you yet another answer.

An excellent album, that benefits from repeated listens, each one bringing you further into its charms and its…

Fever Dream is out now

Album Review: Everything But the Girl (re-issues)

EBTG Walking Wounded

Everything But The Girl -‘Walking Wounded’/’Temperamental.’ (Edsel)

June 1995. It’s my first Glastonbury. Amongst the many acts I see that weekend are Everything But The Girl. A few months back singer Tracey Thorn has guested on Massive Attack’s Protection album, and and she and musical partner Ben Watt collaborate with Jeff Buckley on the stage that day on a cover of The Smiths’ ‘I Know It’s Over.’ This is the calm before the storm…

A few months later, ‘Missing’ a track from their then most-recent Amplified Heart, is remixed by Todd Terry and goes on to become their biggest hit worldwide. And a band who had impeccable indie credentials, and yet had been perceived as moving to the middle of the road are suddenly reborn as a successful dance act.

1996’s Walking Wounded was the duo’s most successful album, and saw them suddenly a lot more in vogue than they had been in over a decade. The title track saw them experimenting successfully with drum’n’bass, but electronica and house found a place here, too. ‘Wrong’ and ‘Single’ were also huge hits. And deservedly so, but it wasn’t that Everything But The Girl had drastically changed their songwriting, but the delivery was in tune with the zeitgeist of the time. This album was well-received then, and it has dated extremely well. (****1/2)

EBTG Temperamental

1999’s Temperamental followed in a similar vein, but it’s not as strong as an album. Both re-issue packages come with a disc of bonus tracks and remixes and what this tends to show up is that ‘Full Fathom Five’ the lead-off single and opening track was one of the weakest tracks here in its original form (I could listen to these remixes for hours). ‘Low Tide Of The Night’ the second track seems too like generic house, but after that the album finds its feet, including the lovely ‘Lullaby Of Clubland’ and closing with the Deep Dish collaboration ‘The Future Of The Future (Stay Gold).’


Thus far, it’s been the last studio album from the couple. Both have pursued solo careers, even though they are married with children (understandably they wanted to raise their children out of the public eye). Watt and Thorn have both published two books apiece (well worth reading, if you haven’t already done so). Hopefully they will work on another EBTG album, but the re-issues show a) how to do a re-issue package and b) how to successfully reinvent yourself as a musical act while staying true to yourselves.

Walking Wounded and Temperamental are out now on Edsel

Album Review: Ben Watt

Ben Watt album

Ben Watt – ‘Hendra’ (Caroline International)

It’s been over thirty years since Ben Watt released his first solo album North Marine Drive, and here is his second. In the meantime, he’s been A DJ, writer and most famously one half of Everything But The Girl with his wife Tracey Thorn. Though she took lead vocals on most of EGBT’s material during the two decades they recorded, Watt took lead vocal a few times himself and has the voice to handle it (check out ‘The Night I Heard Caruso Sing’ from 1988’s Idlewild or ‘Talk To Me Like The Sea’ from 1991’s Worldwide.)

I have to confess that this album did take me a few listens to get into, but once I took it all in one go s opposed to dipping in a few times, it made perfect sense. No it doesn’t just pick up where his debut solo album left off there’s been too much water under the bridge for that – and yet, it does continue in the same vein. It features contributions from Bernard Butler, and Berlin-based producer Ewan Pearson. The album’s standout track ‘The Levels’ features Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour.

It’s a thing of beauty this album, a pastoral work that doffs its cap to the likes of Robert Wyatt (a previous Watt collaborator), Richard Thompson at his most soulful and even John Martin. At times melancholic and at others uplifting, it’s a strong, coherent piece of work -and if he’d like to deliver a third album like this, in his own time, I’m sure many people would welcome it. This humble scribe included…


Hendra is out now on Caroline International

Stream Hendra via Brooklyn Vegan

The return of Ben Watt: solo artist


Ben Watt, by Edward Bishop

There’s so many people coming out of the woodwork after a lot of time has gone by that I’ve come to the conclusion that it can only be a matter of time before Robert Smith and Steve Severin collaborate on another project together under The Glove moniker. Hell, if Bowie can come back after ten years as if nothing’s happened, well, anything can happen.

The latest OMG moment is that of Ben Watt. Back in the early eighties he released a fine solo album, entitled North Marine Drive and an EP with Robert Wyatt, Summer Into Winter. Still in his teends, he went off to Hull University where he met Tracey Thorn, who he formed Everything But The Girl with. He’s run his own label Buzzin’ Fly, and written

His new album is called Hendra and comes out on April 14. The album is a collaboration with Bernard Butler (of Suede fame and noted record producer), and Ewan Pearson. Oh, and another contributor to the album is Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd, no less, who features on ‘The Levels.’

The album tracklisting is as follows:
‘Golden Ratio’
‘Matthew Arnold’s Field’
‘The Gun’
‘The Levels’
‘Young Man’s Game’
‘The Heart Is A Mirror’

He’s also on tour, though dates so far are only for England:

Feb 23 – London, St Pancras Church – SOLD OUT
Feb 24 – London, St Pancras Church – SOLD OUT
April 15 Sheffield, Greystones
April 16 Newcastle, Cluny 2
April 17 Liverpool, East Village Arts Club
April 18 Hebden Bridge, Trades Club
April 19 Cambridge, Junction 2
April 21 Nottingham, Bodega
April 22 Guildford, Boileroom
April 23 Norwich, Arts Centre