God Is In The Details: Stripped for success
THE INDEPENDENT'S GUIDE TO POP'S FIDDLY BITS
Friday 10 September 1999
Everything but the Girl
IF YOU had a particularly intense holiday romance in the mid-Nineties, this may be the track that brings it all back - the perfect pop song of tears and remembering.
"Missing" is an acoustic ballad that somehow ended up as a killer dance- floor hit all over Europe, particularly Italy, where it beat off all chart opposition for weeks on end. But the God-like details are not so much in the song, or its original arrangement on Everything But The Girl's Amplified Heart album, but in the fleet, infectious mix for the "radio" and "club mix" version.
Where the original is heavy, thoughtful and self-consciously musical, the remix has the qualities of quickness and lightness that Italo Calvino advocated in his Six Memos for the Next Millennium. Terry's mix follows all the usual dance cliches, adding a hustling drum loop, sawn-off bass synth and tightly synchronised keyboard vamps while removing nearly everything except vocals from the original multitrack. This is a time-honoured way to extract large fees and royalties from desperate record companies aiming for "...you know, for kids". Most of the time this results in a "less is less" scenario, but for "Missing", less is definitely more, to invoke another Mies van der Rohe statement.
A really spine-chilling moment occurs during the second line of the chorus, when Tracey Thorn's harmony vocal part rides gloriously over the purring, stripped-down engine of the rhythm track. This higher part, an insubstantial sliver of sound, perfectly pitched and phrased, manages to make the main vocal performance sound ever more lonely, more desperate to connect: "And I missed you... like the desert missed the rain." Another moment occurs early in the introduction, a brief shard of acoustic guitar, one of the few fragments left from the luxuriant rhythmic undergrowth of the album mix. Ben Watt's original guitar part is creative, musical, nicely played and recorded - it must have hurt to lose 90 per cent of it in the remix. But it was a smart decision: in the context of a hit single, the arpeggios over-egg the chorus. "Missing" is a good song, but it's not "Yesterday" (or even "Yesterdays"). The magic is in the combination of groove, sound and words; the artistry is in the cool timbre and performance of Thorn's vocal, which manages (and this is a very Nineties trait) to be detached and emotionally affecting at the same time.
John L Walters
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Professional big game hunter Ian Gibson crushed to death by elephant during hunt
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Doctor Who film will definitely happen, leaked Sony emails reveal
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer has leaked – watch
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate