Friday, November 5, 2010

Everything But...The Credit.

Everything But The Girl. Anyone remember this boy-girl duo? Or does it just ring the faintest of bells the way it did for me - bringing me back to the days when I listened to the Women & Songs compilations and all of the sappy female singles blended into one?

Well, apparently credit is due. Probably not in every area of the band's musical history, but certainly in a few. Everything But The Girl is an 80s rock-pop pair from the UK who seem to have stood the test of time seeing as they are presently still making music (and babies, probably - they're a couple).

The reason I raise them is because I heard a song the other day in a store, and as I tend to do when I'm in public - I asked what it was. Yes, it's usually embarassing, a little painful for both you and the salesperson who is probably wondering why you are giving them such an irrelevant task - but I promise, it's always worth it. Anyway, the nice young man sped to the back of the store to find out for me, and came back sputtering, "Uh, something about the, everything about something." I looked at him puzzled at his slurring, cocked my head to the side and asked, "Not Everything But The Girl...or is it?" The little hipster leaped in the air as I cracked the code and said, "Yeah, yeah that's it!" The reason I was so surprised is because my only experience to date with this seemingly obsolete electro-duo was in the mid-90s, with their song "Missing" - an annoying but familiar trance-pop single on one of those Women & Songs albums I mentioned. Not memorable. In the least.

This song, on the other hand, was acoustic, pleasant, and tender with harmonies resembling those of The Weepies. The lyrics seemed simplistic, and even amidst the bustle of the store, I stopped to listen because whatever the lead singer was saying sounded as if it had some depth. It's called "25th December", and, I must say, it is really something. I think what threw me off about it being sung by Everything But The Girl was, first of all, that male vocalist Benn Watt was singing (I thought it was a female lead only - maybe someone should alert the Women & Songs police). And secondly, it sounded like an indie-smash-hit from this year - think again! This track is from 1994. In that case, immediate kudos was given to these two lovebirds for assembling such a timelessly pretty track with soft, harmonic vocals and both acoustic and swirling electric guitars. A great find.

So, naturally I did a little sleuthing after I found out they weren't too shabby of a listen. Sure enough, I discovered that EBTG has covered two of my very all-time favourite classic songs. The first is "The Only Living Boy in New York" by Simon and Garfunkel, and it's a fairly standard, by-the-book cover. Nothing wrong with that, but moving on!
The second (drum roll) ... is a truly creative and charming acoustic cover of "Tougher Than The Rest" by that's right, none other than Papa Rock n' Roll, The Godfatha, The Bauss, Brucey Baby. Ok, enough of that. EBTG covered my all-time favourite Springsteen song in a mellow but romantically haunting acoustic version sung by female-lead Tracey Thorn. I was really taken back by this cover seeing as the single off 1987's Tunnel of Love isn't exactly one of his most obviously famous. But, nonetheless, hats off to EBTG for pegging the breath-taking track as something worth a new spin. And, they fooled me again! What I thought was a modern-day attempt, was actually from a 1992 EP. The cover is enough to bring a tear to your eye, and I have to say, even as a huge fan of the token Springsteen harmonica, I love what EBTG did to the bridge of the song. They reduced it from Bruce's heartfelt, centre-stage harmonica solo to a combination of piano and plain old gospel harmonies. Touching and surprisingly appreciated by one of the original song's biggest fans.

I don't know where they are nowadays, if they're only recording solo material, or if they're still making love and music - but these unexpected diamonds in the rough will not be coming off repeat anytime soon. Now, I'm not suggesting we all go out and buy every single EBTG album ever made - in fact, I highly suggest you do not do that. But the moral of the story is, do a little sleuthing, don't judge a band by their Women & Songs affiliations, and never be afraid to ask what is playing - you just might find your next true love.

Bruce sings it to his long-time love Patti Scialfa

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