Blowing a fuse just before reviewing an album aptly titled Fuse does not make up for a lack of power. Everything But The Girl, when their record eventually begins and plays out of speakers so horribly reliant on electric and power, is not to be missed. Fend your eyes from the agony of the cover. This is what bad acid house must have looked like all those years ago. Their downtempo style of sophisti-pop is needed now more than ever. But their switch in tone, that feeling as found on Nothing Left to Lose, shows a duo with everything left to prove but nothing for themselves. It is a beautiful place to find them. Fuse, their latest album and first in twenty-three long years, is a gearshift. An important next step for a creative force that could mark this as their last.
What is left to lose, after all? Everything But The Girl cemented their legacy as a roundly creative house-styled duo and moving that style on is a bold choice. Fuse takes on legacy and the next step. Bumps from car keys and hopeless ambition are founded in spot-led, well-mixed tracks. Run a Red Light captures that well, the slower tone a jarring change of pace and not quite as readily observed as first expected. Quick as a flash on Caution to the Wind and Everything But The Girl does not quite do so after that. They maintain a steady thematic course, of understanding where doubt for the self can lead and how mistakes can and will be made. Forgiveness is the key. When You Mess Up and its repetition of forgiveness is a slower-toned, nicely pitched song for that, and it carries Fuse’s momentum well.
Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn fear messing up. Half their tracks are withering apologies slapped over the top of nice instrumentals and well-shaped mixings. Their programming and electronic force are present throughout but their fear of the unexpected, which they constantly allude to, is not as present as it could have been. Time and Time Again feel high-strung and a tad empty, but the sweaty drips and trapped claustrophobia of No One Knows We’re Dancing are nice enough. Fuse is more electronic and looser than first expected. That latter half is the potential death knell Everything But The Girl manages to dance around, successfully manoeuvring a weak mid-section to burst through with reassurance of quality.
March through the short-term pain Forever charts, a listicle set to a barren electro beat of things to get rid of. Interior Space manages a feel of too little, too late. Its piano charms and the slow-moving tones, the sharpness of the lyrics, it all comes together and in just a short two minutes. Fuse does not blow up in the ears of the listener but it never tries to. Everything But The Girl does not need to gun for that. An explosive return to the scene should be enough to prick the ears and drag along anyone hoping to hear new work from the hit 1990s artists. Fair play to them, that is what Fuse is. Slower, contemplative and nicely worked in places. Spotty moments may just be a bit of rust on the collaborative process, but even then, album closer Karaoke makes up for that in abundance.