tracey, stephin. stephin, tracey.
you cannot really get any more chickfactory than tracey thorn. back when the early ebtg records came out, I think I even wrote her a fan letter. when some of you kids were in nappies, I was watching them at the 930 club in dc (their love not money album helped me through my summer of measles). when I worked at spin, I tried to get a tracey interview, but it wasn’t meant to be (I was not digging their early ’90s style anyway, truth be told). then! when I worked at timeout new york I did finally get to interview ms tracey (she: poolside; me: at my desk in the noisiest, penitentiary-chic office ever, with a failing phone-taping gizmo in my hand), and it was like one of the worst interviews ever. perhaps because it was 15 years after the time when I was a really big fan of her music. tracey has an amazing voice and that will likely never change. the choices that she and ben watt make (drum n bass springs to mind) don’t always make sense to me but sometimes they make sense to other people. the songs that they choose or write are not always up to snuff, if only because those first albums and singles were so damn good (even if my fellow college radio mates made serious fun of me for liking it!). so now, 24 years after her first solo lp, a distant shore, tracey has a new solo album, but you people may be even more interested to hear her magnetic fields covers. she has always been aces at covers (her “night and day” and “femme fatale” trump a lot of others). hey trace, why not just do a whole album of merrittunes? (I am sure there was a 6th-ing attempt way back when anyway…)
photography: stephin merritt by gail o’hara
4 Replies to “worlds collide.”
Sheesh, that’s the most negative plug I’ve read in a while. I think you should give Temperamental another go. It has a jazzy edge and some moving lyrics (i.e. “all the effort that it took to get here in the first place, and all the effort not to let the effort show”, and The Voice, of course. Other EBTG covers of note include Springsteen’s Tougher Than The Rest and The Smiths’ Back To The Old House. Speaking of Moz & Marr, I find it curious that she specifies “The Smiths 1983-85” as an influence on her MySpace page. What’s so much worse about “The Queen is Dead” and “Strangeways…”, Ms. Thorn? I am disappointed with her The Book of Love cover though. There’s so much more emotion in Mr. Merritt’s voice on the original.
Perhaps I didn’t make clear what a huge, huge fan I am of their stuff circa 1982-1986. I tried and tried and tried, but in my book it’s been downhill since Idlewild. Sorry, but that’s me. I think she should keep putting out solo albums, year after year. I think BW is sometimes the one steering in the wrong direction.
Dear, you’ve made a career of expressing your huge fandom, and you’re great at it, so don’t apologize. But her new thing isn’t exactly Eden, is it? Mr. Watt’s definitely the one with the Puerto Rican hi-hat fetish, I agree. He’s even got his own house label now. I read his book, Patient, about his battle with a rare gastrointestinal disease (Churg-Strauss Syndrome). He manages to get through the entire saga without divulging anything interesting about EBTG or his relationship with TT, with the exception of the following bit about the first time they met, which I find exceedingly cute: I see [Tracey and I] as always being the same. We will always be nineteen. I will always be Tannoying* her in the Union building [of Hull University] on our first day, saying, ‘If Tracey of the Marine Girls is in the building, could she please come to Reception now.’ And she will always be appearing in red scuffed stilettoes, and I will always be saying, by way of introduction, ‘We share the same record label. Have you brought your guitar?'”
*The term “tannoy” in colloquial British English is used generically to mean any public-address system, and although the word is a registered trademark, it has become a genericised trademark.
Long-time Traceyphile here and Stephenphile for that matter but I must say her version of Smoke and Mirrors sounds very strained; as if the melodic changes were too much for her, but her Book of Love cover, while not very daring, is lovely and sounds almost like it could be her own song. It really suits her voice. I think she should have covered “You You You…” from the 6ths.
As for EBTG stuff, the b-sides from the Idlewild period were tremendous (Dyed in the Grain and Hang Out the Flags especially). When they decided to move full time into remix land, they lost their idiosyncracies and started to sound like every other dance act. Snore.
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