Before Polly Scattergood parades the stage at Portsmouth Cellars three local acts bring a diverse range of supports for this evenings gig, each of which is worthy of some attention.
Breaking More Waves had the pleasure of attending the very first Le Plat du Jour gig, and two years on we witness an artist slowly finding her musical feet with an ever deepening maturity. She brings scratchy violins, deep literary references, banjos, acoustic guitars and bluesy PJ Harvey meets KT Tunstall vocals to the stage; all highly satisfying for a first on the bill artist. See You Next Tuesday (C.U.N.T for short) is a sad, but self assured song of betrayal about someone that the singer despises “I don’t need to confirm who I am to you,” she sings with an inner strength of someone finding herself against a simple downbeat guitar backing.
“I hope you’re all limbered up,” asks Matt the lead singer of The Marvellous Mechanical Band, with the promise of involving the audience at a later point in their set. Dressed in orange boiler suits, bunny hats, and scary masks the Marvellous Mechanical Band do not take themselves too seriously. They are here to banish those who think that all music should be solemn and weighty with a performance that brings to mind the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, a third division punk group and some hoary old rockers from the 70’s. It is quite frankly bizarre, possibly rubbish, but perversely enjoyable. “Those of you who are stats fans, that was about 8% correct,” they announce after one shambolic song of insanely stupid rocking riffs. Later they engage the audience in quite possibly the first ever call and response drum solo, with the audience asked to replicate what the drummer plays. “We’re very aware that we’re very silly,” they announce. Correct, but nothing wrong with that. It is at least entertaining.
Loz Bridge And The Box Social present a much more elegant blend of musical sophistication. Loz is not your typical rock and roller; he’s suited, bespectacled and drinking white wine (the Cellars has run out of red apparently). The bands sound ranges from elegant cocktail bar jazz to more upbeat bluesy numbers. November sees the band completely immersed in the music, the double bass player eyes shut, the guitarist crouched down , Loz’s vocal effortlessly light yet potent. New single Witches, with audience participation on its bavarian rabble rousing chorus is the highlight, an anthem for anyone who “left the house this morning to a job they don’t like,” as Loz describes it.
Polly Scattergood arrives on stage in high heels with bows, patterned tights and an outlandish shiny dress. She is certainly here to make an impression visually, but what of the music and performance? Polly may not have the big ballsy vocal that seems to be the de rigeur for solo female performers these days; instead she produces a relatively timid girlish sound, reminiscent of a slightly wonky Kate Bush. However its lack of authority gives the sense of attending a delicate whispered confessional; a schizophrenic confessional that often disarms and disturbs with its lyrical extremes. It’s not clear if Polly is singing autobiographically or if these tunes are just characters in her mind, but either way they are edgy and often bitterly dark. The words are open to many interpretations, but there appear to be reflections on drunken betrayal on Other Too Endless, saying goodbye to life on Nitrogen Pink and hints of a dark relationship and the loss of innocence on opening song I Hate The Way which suffers a false start due to the dreaded ‘technical hitches‘.
It’s not all slash your wrists traumatic however, with Polly making fun of herself on the poppy Please Don’t Touch where she lists some of her inadequacies “I can’t play pretty tunes, and my hair is always messy,” she sweetly sings, whilst clawing the air and tussling her hair in a theatrical and possibly contrived way as keyboards, drums and guitar provide a Bjork meets Goldfrapp meets Black Box Recorder backing.
The songs that Polly Scattergood performs tonight are unlikely to bring her into the mainstream, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. However the unsettling air of her lyrics and the left field creativity that she displays musically suggest that her album, when released in March, may be an intriguing listen. Ultimately a Polly Scattergood show is like one of Breaking More Waves favourite puddings. All sensually good looking and sweet on the outside, but as one bites deeper one finds hidden tastes that may be bitter and dark, but are ultimately more satisfying.