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COME ON FRIEL THE NOISE

  • Steve Lamacq
  • 24 Feb 09, 02:35 PM

I can see myself walking towards him, even as I'm thinking, "This is probably a very bad idea." But for some reason I can't stop myself. Against my better judgment I march straight up to Louis Walsh and introduce myself.

"Louis, we've never met. I'm Steve Lamacq."

"I know you, you used to write for the NME."

Now I really don't know what to say. Some of my own family don't know I used to work for NME. Flustered by this turn of events - and a brief conversation which suggests that Walsh is, at least off duty, a decent sort of bloke - I mumble something about having briefly done A&R and management myself and then scurry away.

In the corridor I pass Anna Friel. who is deep in conversation with Ian McCulloch of Echo & The Bunnymen. As surreal nights go, this is turning into a humdinger.

But at least I'm not at the (dreaded) BRITS. Here at the Shepherds Bush Empire (where I'm compering the War Child gig and where I've spent most of the night loitering in a corridor by the stage trying not to provoke the ire of the Killers' roadcrew) there is no mention of Duffy! Or her three awards. THREE AWARDS!

We know what this means, don't we (apart from the fact that the Brits judging panel have finally found their new Dido). It means thousands of 'new Duffys', stretching out in front of us from now 'til Christmas! By next week, anyone who can do a passable karaoke version of Mercy will have a record deal. You have been warned!

And the great shame about this is that there are some extraordinary female singers out there who may go overlooked as a result. Not that Polly Scattergood is one of them. Polly is instantly too scary to be a pop star à la Duffy. One listen to the opening track of her debut album will have most people conjuring up visions of The Midwich Cuckoos.

Which actually isn't a bad comparison to start with. Scattergood grew up in a small town called Wivenhoe in Essex (not much bigger than a village, but it's on the main train line into London). When I meet her she displays all the symptoms of someone whose creativity was at least partly fuelled by a desperation to escape to the city.

But the claustrophobia of teen life in a small commuter belt community still rises up through her work. My BBC colleague Rob Da Bank described her as a latter-day Kate Bush, which is also a good pointer. But the characters in her songs - and the roles she plays writing out their emotions - are far more edgy than La Bush's (aforementioned opener I Hate The Way appears to cover paranoia, pills, inadequacy and jealousy, all within the first two verses). It's not easy going. Musically too, it flits between piano-led melodrama and sparse electronica.

And yet as the album unfolds, there is something pleasingly unnerving about the whole thing. It is not the sort of record you can easily get comfortable with - and at times there's so much going on, it's almost too disorientating for its own good - but through all this, she's made a record which never lacks surprises or suspense. It's like one of those films, where the star always walks into a pitch black room without turning the light on, even though it's clear that evil lurks around the very next corner (why do they do that?)

I like it. Friends who've seen her live say she's, well, a bit scatty. But God Bless Mute Records for taking the risk. She will surely be the sound of 'knife scraping plate' for lots of people, but perversely I'm quite enjoying that.

LAMACQ'S LIVENERS

DOVES - Winter Hill (Heavenly album Promo)
POLLY SCATTERGOOD - Polly Scattergood (Mute Album)
TITUS ANDRONICUS - My Time Outside The Womb (Radio 1 Session)
TARZAN 5 - Boys Game (ancient 021 Records seven-inch)
HATCHAM SOCIAL - Murder In The Dark (forthcoming Fierce Panda single)

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