Theoretical Girl – Divided (Memphis Industries) 17/08/2009

September 4, 2009 by  


Okay, so it’s become pretty clear that 2009 is the year of the female fronted indie outfit. Acts like La Roux and Little Boots no longer need any introduction, whether for better or worse, and in the case of the former have actually made a lasting impression on the record buying public. Entering into the fray is Theoretical Girl, another indie girl looking to make her mark this year. It would be very easy to lump the Southend girl in with these pseudo-indie stars, but there’s just something about her debut Divided that sees her sit outside of the current movement.

On her debut album, the multi-talented Amy Turnnidge, plays bass, keys, guitar, provides the vocals and even finds time to arrange and score the strings. Add to this sighted influences from such diverse sources as ’60s girl groups, Tom Waits, Billy Joel, Purcell and even the classic twee pop of Sarah Records it easy to see why her album sounds very different from the current crop of female indie-pop stars.

Much of the songwriting on the album focuses on Amy’s sweet voice, folksy lyrics and twee sounding arrangements. No more so than on ‘I should of Loved You More’ a self explanatory lament on a past failed relationship, a theme which constantly reoccurs throughout the album. The foreboding lyrics are sung as sweetly as imaginably possible and are accompanied by an uplifting string quartet and backdrop of acoustic strumming. This twee sound permeates much of the album and often verges on the pastoral. The orchestral instruments combined with the soft acoustic rhythm guitar on ‘A Future Apart’ and title track ‘Divided’ are perfect examples of this, leaving Theoretical Girl sounding like a female Patrick Wolf.

However, it’s not all flowery dresses and twee guitars. ‘Red Mist’, as you can imagine is a more direct song which attempts to portray the singers anguish by combing an industrial sounding beat with a contorted riff and rumbling bass line over which Amy sings ?This red mist controls me’. Unfortunately it’s hard to escape the tweeness of her voice and consequently the song lacks some much need vocal aggression. Final track ‘The Hypocrite’ also attempts to disperse some of the singers heartbreak, and largely thanks to its downcast strings is more successful.

Divided is an accomplished collection of songs from a very talented writer. However, the singular nature of the song’s themes makes it a little repetitive as an album, leaving only the music and especially the orchestral arrangements to provide enough diversity to keep the listener interested.


By Chris Cummins