Places for young, female singer-songwriters in the UK are fast becoming filled, but this has not stopped 22-year-old, Colchester-born Polly Scattergood from trying. Forgiving the author of the press release for her eponymous debut album, who describes a Harry Potter-like moment of concocting her bittersweet brew on a guitar in the under-stairs cupboard of her parents’ house, the girl following in the footsteps of those who have managed to crawl their way into the hearts of the public, including Amy Winehouse, Adele, Imogen Heap & Leona Lewis, by graduating from the famed Brit School clearly has something going for her.
‘I Hate The Way’ is certainly brave for an opening track. As the title suggests, it is the epitome of teenage angst and we get 7 minutes of it, including a minute of spoken word over a dark synth beat, closing with a repetition of the line ‘you cannot break somebody who is already broken’. Written on a toy keyboard several years ago, it is perhaps not what her parents had in mind but still, it has led to comparisons with Tori Amos which is certainly no mean feat. The dulcet whispering voice that is on some level pleasantly haunting begins to grate when the next handful of tracks rarely stray from a monotone. When you then have to wait for over a minute before the opening vocals of ‘Untitled 27’, only to hear ‘suicidal tendencies, numb the music…sick’, the despair begins to kick in.
It becomes increasingly clear that the majority of the album is a dark divulgence of heart-ache that necessitates a voice such as any of the influences she cites: Tom Yorke, Joni Mitchell or Jeff Buckley, and which she unfortunately, quite obviously, lacks. The nail in the coffin comes with ‘Bunny Club,’ a song made entirely from binary opposites, culminating in the ingenious line ‘I am hot, I am cold, I am not for sale, for I am sold’. That said, by the end of the ten tracks, you cannot help feeling sorry for the girl. The songs are rooted in a plethora of depressing issues brought out in lyrics so simplistic, the vulnerability is hard to ignore. This is no truer than the first single from the album, due to be ‘Nitrogen Pink,’ written about a friend she watched deteriorate with cancer.
With tour dates lined up supporting Laura Marling, Polly is entering a cut-throat world of young, fragile singer-songwriters. Whether she can disprove her unfortunate, ironic surname which means ‘here today, gone tomorrow,’ remains to be seen.