Non-Nordic Sunday: Polly Scattergood – After You (track from recently released album)
We talk about ‘dark’ and ‘ethereal’ quite often in NMR and many Nordic artists do have that blackness about them, especially Siv Jakobsen for example, who crops up quite frequently.
But few come close to Polly Scattergood, the Colchester girl who attended the Brit School at the same time as Adele and who, I have always argued, has more song writing talent. Unfortunately, because it is all channelled into almost unrelenting bleakness rather than soppy love songs she hasn’t had anything like the exposure of the shining star from her alma mater.
The one thing Scattergood has in common with Adele is that she releases albums with the same lack of frequency, indeed even less so. The album that this song is from, ‘In this Moment’, which was released in July, is only the third since I first saw her perform – nervously (she had severe stage fright for a long time) but with riveting intensity – at Night & Day in Manchester in April 2009. (She also recorded an album ‘onDeadWaves’ [also the band name] with James Chapman, aka Maps, a few years ago and which is even bleaker).
The reason I chose this song from the new album is that after a brief listen to it I concluded this is the closest one I found to the classic tracks on her first, eponymous album; one that included the frenetic ‘Nitrogen Pink’, based around a friend’s regular treatment for leukaemia, the heartbreaking ‘I Hate the Way’ (teenage angst and anorexia) and the wonderful ‘Bunny Club’, her observations on the Soho sex scene and the detritus that surrounds it after moving to the capital aged 16 where she worked on a market stall to support her music studies (“You see, with me they take one look and they run/I’ve got a dog and a gun/and I’m living in London now”). I recommend those tracks at the very least to anyone who wants to check her out. There are plenty worse ways to spend half an hour or so.
Scattergood is an accomplished photographer too, and there’s a certain style that comes across in her videos. They are usually simple ones like this, in which she just stands in front of the camera, but there is often something about them which puts them above the average rock/pop video and which mark her out instantly as being a bit different. In this one for example watch her calmly close her eyes after she sings “why do you insist on dying every time I close my eyes?” Is she inviting the expiration of the subject, or just pondering it? Very simple, but equally subtle and clever.
One of these days Scattergood, a brilliant lyricist, poet and masterful atmosphere builder, will be recognised for the talent she is. Only 33, she still has time on her side. I’ve been saying that for 11 years but I swear that day will come.
Visit her on her website.