Release Date: Apr 8, 2016
Record label: Universal Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter
Ben Watt’s recent solo record, Fever Dream resembles those dark Impressionist paintings where everything bleeds together in the rain. Despite Watts’ cries for love past and present, he seems lonely, distant, and even a bit lost. Musically, he and his musical compatriots (especially Bernard Butler on electric guitar) capture this feeling of modern ennui with sophistication and passion.
Watt interrogates love and its stages thoroughly on Fever Dream, yet in the end he unequivocally affirms it. His songs are resonant with the weight of experience, and his musical settings, even in their relative sparsity, are powerful and at times nearly elegant..
Ben Watt’s stunning 2014 album, Hendra, saw the Everything But the Girl man combine superb songwriting with emotional edge, in lyrics that dealt with the deaths of his father and half-sister, and his mother’s slide into dementia. Fever Dream has a similarly understated, eerie intensity, and Bernard Butler’s hazy, Isley Brothers-like guitar playing is again ever-present, as Watt sticks with what he calls “folk-jazz and distorted, strings-bent rock”. However, the lyrical subject has changed to how human relationships change over the years.
It's easy to forget how crucial guitars were to the music of Everything But the Girl. They were not merely embellishment of production, but rather an anchor to the style that gave credence to both Tracey Thorn and her husband Ben Watt at the start of their respective careers. While she got her start in such post-punk outfits as Stern Bops and Marine Girls, it was her hushed 1982 solo debut, A Distant Shore, that helped the NME set recognize Thorn.
Almost exactly two years ago, Ben Watt released his first solo album for over 30 years, Hendra, a collection of smooth, adult-orientated pop songs that did a decent job of reminding everyone what a talented songwriter he could be. It’s a fact sometimes forgotten in a stellar career encompassing the musical partnership with wife Tracey Thorn in Everything But The Girl, his role as head of the excellent Buzzin’ Fly electronic music label and a flourishing sideline as a DJ and remixer. Pretty much a continuation from where Hendra left off – although Watt has taken over from Ewan Pearson on production duties, all else remains the same for Fever Dream, including long-term collaborator Bernard Butler on guitar and some songs that may sound smooth and content on the outside, but have a sad, poignant underbelly.