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The duo’s debut chimed nicely with their anti-rock stance and soon found its way into 500,000 homes. Tracks such as Each and Every One, Tender Blue and Crabwalk swooned jazzily, set alongside more mellow (conga-assisted) numbers such as The Spice of Life. Coming just as the likes of The Style Council were leaping all over anything un-rock, it offered a bit more depth than what was available elsewhere.
1985’s Love Not Money was a more indie proposition from its first cut onwards, the none-more-jangly When All’s Well. Sounding not unlike something Lloyd Cole and the Commotions or The Smiths might have made, it sounded a desire for EBTG to be heard above the bigger crowds they were beginning to play to.
1986’s Baby, the Stars Shine Bright saw them adopt a wall of sound atmosphere, triumphant orchestration making a bid for classic album status. Come on Home and Come Hell or High Water are two of many high points, and their songwriting shines throughout.
Idlewild (its tracklisting is to the left), originally released in 1988, rounds off this foursome of reissues. On it, things are stripped back to present a machine-pop-soul affair, with standouts including The Night I Heard Caruso Sing, Apron Strings and I Was Always Your Girl. Anyone who thought EBTG were just a couple of indie mopers will be proved mistaken: Idlewild features elements of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and possesses a minimal R&B feel. It really is quite marvellous.
These four albums represent essential listening for anyone interested in EBTG’s output ahead of their mega-selling Missing single of 1994, as their influence can be felt in the material of acts like Belle and Sebastian and The xx.
As a bonus, each album comes with a wealth of hand-picked extra tracks, featuring B sides, non-album singles and home-recorded demos, making these the complete picture of a band hitting a fantastic stride at a very early stage of its career.
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Idlewild has a sense of maturity, which is stunning when you consider that EBTG were still spring chickens when they produced it. It has fine production values and really shows that they had been on a fast learning curve re sparse v full arrangements.
The songs touch you and are like small vignettes into possible lives. They have such conviction that they could be factual or just beautifully crafted short stories. For many years it was the only EBTG album I owned. I just could not imagine anything else they did could be this good. I was wrong, they have produced many fine albums and now I would be hard pressed to name a favourite. Over the years they have changed but managed to preserve that essential quality that makes them who they are.
A very special album by a very special group. Highly recommended.