Everything But The Girl – ‘Eden’

If there’s an album that brings back memories of 1984, my time in Christchurch in a new flat, with new friends, an ever-growing social scene and a Weller-inspired (who else) foray into jazz, it’s the sublime Eden by Everything But The Girl. Three jazz-juiced albums were released around this time which tickled my French fancy: The Style Council had introduced Café Bleu to a mixed reaction amongst Jam fans, and with Working Week’s Working Nights and La Varieté by Weekend, a smoky waft of French accordion café culture was the new thing.

We took this new thing seriously, seeking out a weekly modern jazz club in some remote country pub. We dressed up sharp, we applauded after each solo, and we were very European. I have never smoked cigs, but I was probably tempted just to complete the look. This was summer time, we were hip young cats who took boat trips in blazers along Christchurch quay, and we listened to Eden.

From the opening soothing brass, gentle rhythm and Tracy Thorn’s exquisite vocals…

“If you ever feel the time to drop me a loving line,
maybe you should just think twice,
I don’t wait around on your advice.”

…the tone is set. Each and Every One is a perfect opener; a beautiful, understated jazz groove with Tracy Thorn’s seemingly effortless, perfect tone. Everything on the album feels restrained and authentic, musically and lyrically, exploring the labyrinth of love’s complexities. Ben Watt and Tracy Thorn looked shy and unassuming, which to me made a pleasant change from most popsters from ’84, swaying gently, almost awkwardly with no hint of attitude.

At not long past 30 minutes Eden’s 12 tracks are packed sweetly tight. Another Bridge, Frost and Fire and the gorgeous Bittersweet evoke immensely nostalgic memories of exciting times. I was growing up fast amongst special friends. Gary, Simon, Lisa, Simon… thank you, those were the best of days.

The Style Council – ‘Café Bleu’

So, there were Jam fans from day one who dug the early stuff, the attitude heavy, Pistols-inspired In The City. Then there’s younger, late starters like me who were never part of that scene, who came along in 1980 when the funk was already creeping into the music. When The Jam folded it hit fans hard, and when The Style Council started there were many expecting The Jam part two. The Style Council were anything but, and thousands were gutted. Not me.

Sure, it took some time to adjust expectations, but with Weller I had to be open-minded, trust the man’s instincts, and like much of the best music, just give it time. The first EP release Introducing The Style Council was soaked in the new jazz sound that was clearly just the mod direction Weller was travelling. It had a few of the band’s early singles and set the tone for what was to come. The Jam were nowhere to be seen.

Café Bleu was the debut long-player and stylistically as well as musically it felt fresh, invigorating and totally transitional. Different inspirations were being referenced; the poetry and jazz of the beat generation in particular, which of course led to instant investigation. This was no tipping a toe into a new sound, this was piano and Hammond heavy and just oozed coffee house culture. As much as Mick Talbot was the prominent visual foil to Weller’s cool, musically he shared that role with the rhythm boy wonder, 18 year-old Steve White.

The cool brushed snare on Blue Café and The Paris Match was as musically contrary to Rick Buckler as you could hear, and Talbot’s keys shared prominence with Weller’s guitar. Tracey Thorn and Dee C. Lee’s vocals soothed in a way Weller never could, but more than anything the album radiated an overwhelming air of positivity and hope; an uplifting tone which shone through even the weaker tracks, A Gospel and Strength Of Your Nature, which jolted the album’s flow.

For me, The Style Council peaked early. My Ever Changing Moods was that peak and follow up album Our Favourite Shop was equally as inspiring; again musically eclectic but with a more political tone. But by ’87 I’d lost the faith. My love affair with all things Weller was over… for a few years anyway.