Ben Watt’s solo career took a three-decade detour between North Marine Drive, his 1983 debut, and its follow-up, Hendra, which arrived earlier this year. What kept him busy all that time? Everything but the Girl, for one thing. As one half of that duo with Tracey Thorn, whose first album arrived in ’84, Watt covered a lot of ground. EBTG’s bossa nova–inflected pop initially aligned the group with Sade and the Style Council—part of a smooth revolution in English music. But then Watt and Thorn switched gears, exploring jangly rock, R&B, trip-hop and several strains of dance music, establishing the duo as a unit committed to restless reinvention.
After the last EBTG album came out in 1999, Watt morphed again, starting the label Buzzin’ Fly and becoming an in-demand DJ. His constant shapeshifting means that Hendra could have plausibly contained almost anything. Watt opted for an album full of sturdy, simple, guitar-driven tracks, inspired by classic singer-songwriters like David Crosby and Neil Young. Watt makes welcome diversions into Brazilian pop and ’70s piano balladry, but Hendra stays lean and focused.
Watt turns up this week for a gig split between acoustic and electric formats. With the new album’s honest, affecting tracks plus 30 years of other material to draw on, expect a rich portrait of an artist in constant flux.—Elias Leight