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Theoretical Girl Divided Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

Individual tracks reward to varying degrees, but form a satisfying whole

Lou Thomas 2009

Earlier in 2009, Mute-signed singer Polly Scattergood impressed with her singular brand of fuzzy alt-pop. Now similarly promising Essex-born songwriter Amy Turnnidge – aka Theoretical Girl – brings her debut to the table, and the results are just as sparkling.

As the titular adjective may suggest, Turnnidge has written an album devoted to personal relationship woes. These troubles may be partly or completely fictional, but all of them are characterised by an unflinching honesty.

Song titles offer a hint of what is to come: The Boy I Left Behind, A Future Apart and I Should Have Loved You More are just three examples of a healthy openness. It's easy to imagine Turnnidge's studio experience with producer Andy Chatterley being extremely cathartic.

Terrific opener Rivals is one of the album's highlights. Shuffling gossamer beats, maudlin strings and our Girl's comforting voice combine to create a striking Fleetwood Mac-flavoured dollop of chamber pop. There's a distinctly Celtic tinge to The Boy I Left Behind, and what sounds like true sadness in one key line: “Do I still think about you? I always will.”

Dancehall Deceit is a more menacing proposition. Melodica, Sparks-like guitars, synth weirdness and furtive, mischievous lyrics (“Don't trust her – she pays compliments to cover up her true intent”) combine to ensure the track adds a spiky depth to this inaugural collection.

There are occasional missteps. A Future Apart veers a little too close to tweeness (it’s almost in emetic Cranberries territory) and while single Red Mist is punk-edged and enthusiastic it’s also slightly banal – odd, given Turnnidge's evident ear for a tune.

Mostly the standard is closer to that of The Biggest Mistake: a golden, swirling moment of beatific pop wonder, it’s a quality single-track representation of its parent album. Imagine if Saint Etienne heard OMD's If You Leave and immediately cheered up, just enough to create a tune as good as they’d always threatened.

Sensitive and considered, the 11 tracks of Divided reward to varying degrees, but form a satisfying whole. There will doubtlessly be more fine work to come from Theoretical Girl, and now she's achieved on this small scale it will be intriguing to see if she can make the step to bigger, rather more epic songs.

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