Despite being able to count Depeche Mode, Goldfrapp and Nick Cave as label-mates, Polly Scattergood greets tonight’s small but attentive audience with an air of modesty bordering on insecurity. She’s backed by synths, bass/guitar and live drums, which her three male bandmates use to conjure up subtle, lush soundscapes that never overwhelm Scattergood’s often fragile voice. I Hate The Way, the first single from her forthcoming debut album, sees Polly adopt a quivering, haunting vocal style that is reminiscent of Bright Eyes or Kate Bush, as if she could break down at any moment. Drawn out over a whole set this could have proved heavy-going, but chinks of light shone through the melancholy in the form of jaunty shuffle Please Don’t Touch and Untitled 27. The latter brings to mind the vocal affectations of Martha Wainwright, and there are parallels to be drawn between the two artists: both are deeply aware of the emotional core of their lyrics, and have a theatrical streak that brings those feelings out onstage.
Polly lacks the vocal agility and technique of her more well-known Brit School contemporaries, tending to drift out of tune during louder passages, and this, combined with her nervous stage-manner, indicates that she’s not about to hit the bigtime just yet. But it’s a gift for well-structured storytelling that is at the root of Scattergood’s considerable appeal as an artist, and although the lyrical content seldom ventures beyond matters of the heart, she grips the audience with her stark tales of chemically-rectified woe. An unpolished gem, Polly Scattergood is an artist who promises genuine creativity and longevity.
Earlier this week in our Listen Up column we brought you an interview with Ms. Scattergood, which you can read here.