Revisiting Everything But the Girl’s Walking Wounded

Walking Wounded still sounds as relevant, soulful, and heartbreaking as ever.
Everything But the Girl
Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn circa 1995(Marcelo Krasilcic)

There was a period of time, roughly around 2000 or 2001, when I had Everything But the Girl’s Walking Wounded on near-constant rotation. That was partly due to the music; Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt had taken jungle, drum n’ bass, and downtempo, stripped them down, and infused them with a human warmth, and the resulting sounds were sleek, modern, effortless, and soulful.

But more important were the album’s lyrics, which were filled with stories of heartbreak, loss, and longing. At the time, I was head-over-heels for a girl who seemed completely out of my reach — I was deep in “unrequited love” territory — and so I’d often take the long way home after work and listen to Walking Wounded in the solitude of my car.

Songs like “Before Today,” “Single,” and “Good Cop, Bad Cop” were a salve. When Thorn sang “It’s wrong to feel this way/I know it’s wrong, I know it’s bad/To only see what isn’t there/To want and want and never have” (“Good Cop, Bad Cop”), she helped me sort through (and yes, sometimes brood and wallow in) all of the messed up, conflicted emotions that I had at the time. As I wrote in my aforelinked review:

This is an album that lends itself to driving alone, late at night, while trying to figure out your own romantic endeavors and why they aren’t quite working out the way you planned. Everything But The Girl knows what it’s like, and this album is a comfort during those late drives. At least, it is for me.

That was, of course, nearly two decades ago, and those feelings have long since faded, and even seem a little ridiculous and overwrought with some time and distance. But what hasn’t changed is Walking Wounded, which still sounds as relevant, soulful, and heartbreaking as ever. All of which is to say that I was glad to see Pitchfork finally give the album its due in a recent Sunday review. (Every Sunday, Pitchfork posts a review of “a significant album from the past” that’s not in their archives.)

Each Everything But the Girl album has its own style and story, but the one on which Thorn and Watt’s individual gifts shine brightest is the one on which they stripped everything back. They shared their knottiest feelings, created dialogue with skeletal new sounds, and made the record in a much more insular way than they ever had previously. Its timely sonics and emotionally wrought themes spoke as much to teenagers, myself included, as it did the band’s adult contemporaries.

Walking Wounded was originally released in 1996, and I remember it being touted as one of the first albums to blend pop music and electronica (though I don’t know how true that is). It would become the duo’s most successful album, selling well over a million copies worldwide. It was later released as a two-disc deluxe version in 2015 by Edsel Records.

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