Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Polly Scattergood- s/t (Mute)

Luke Pritchard, Dane Bowers, Katie Melua, Dan Gillespie Sells, Polly Scattergood. All graduated from the Brit School. Polly has little to do with her illustrious peers. For she treads an ethereal path. The music is reminiscent of 'White Chalk' by PJ Harvey, or Kate Bush at her most ethereal.

These reference points seem tired. They could easily apply to Florence and the Machine too. Or Tori Amos. Is it a latent sexism with music that female solo artists have to fall into one of three easily categorised types? They're either: divas, eg Mariah, Whitney etc, sexy popstars, eg Rhianna, Britney Spears etc, or kooky outsiders like Polly. Or do the performers themselves help perpetrate these clichés?

Whichever, Polly is firmly in the latter type. A segment of the first track, 'I Hate The Way' ends with the line“The doctor said I have to sing a happy tune” whereupon it is quickly followed by a series of desperate outbursts about a cheating partner, spilled in a stream of conciousness. It ends with the thought “Then I think he'll love me and he'll stop looking at the other girls.”

'Please Don't Touch' references “dark corners of my room”, “I lost my mind” and “fickle like a fruit machine.” Polly perpetrates these easy cliches of the kooky songstress. She doesn't reach Regina Spektor levels, but Regina can play a mean piano and is a better singer. Perhaps they're used to cover the lower quality of the melodies.

Nothing sticks in the head. Some tracks are down right cheesy. 'Unforgiving Arms' sounds like the worst of 1990s pop ballads. It firmly straddles the middle of the road, leaving the listener to ponder their shopping list, or whether to put a load in the washing machine. 'Poem Song' is ponderous, the only build up being to the singer's voice cracking with more emotion than the usual plain reading of her lines.

Polly isn't going to win plaudits for her lyrics either. “I am strong, I am not week...I built this house, it took quite long.” It seems she had the same lyrics teacher at Brit School as Kate “I've got a family and I drink cups of tea” Nash. Someone should be losing their job.

'Nitrogen Pink' provides one of the highlights, building from a simple start to a string led swirl of instrumentation which sounds glorious. It is one of too few, spread too sparsely over a disc that too often clings to the female outsider musician stereotype. You would have hoped that the Brit School could have taught her to play a different role from the one the music industry wants.

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