It would appear that prior to writing her debut album, Theoretical Girl [aka Amy Eleanor Turnnidge] was dumped, consequently locked herself in her bedroom and listened to The Carpenters on repeat. Divided is the culmination of such heartsickness, baroque and dole. Turnnidge started making demos on a 4-track [presumably in her bedroom] in 2005, beginning to gain recognition in 2006 following the release of her limited edition single -It’s All Too Much’. Turnnidge delivered something simple, strangely sensual and full of promise. It is a shame then, that this simplicity seems to have been replaced with the pure mundane.
The vocals are unconventional and quirky, with hints of a cut glass accent and harmonies that are mildly ethereal but far from overwhelming, in the vein of a sedated Kate Bush. Whilst they do create a sense of whimsy, it’s too watered down to be truly enticing, with restrained vocals and diluted disco beats. The album is defined by a prancing strings section and quaint acoustic strumming which create charming, delicate, if derivative melodies. -A Future Apart’ signals the appearance of the obligatory folk pop tambourine, and with its breezy woodwind sounds as if it’s been lifted straight out mockumentary A Mighty Wind, which charts the reunion of a series of laughably twee -60s folk acts.
What is apparent is that Theoretical Girl’s forte is up-tempo tracks. With surging synths and rattle and shakes galore, -Dancehall Deceit’ is a punchy cautionary tale about infidelity at the discotheque. The album is further redeemed by the catchy -I Should Have Loved You More’ and its drumline reminiscent of the Beach Boys at their most baroque, and -Red Mist’, whose melodies sound like a theme from a Sega Megadrive game. Yet where Turnnidge really trips up is with bellyaching, anguish-laden lyrics which make her sound like the whingey protagonist of a period drama that you’re supposed to empathise with but actually find really annoying. -Never Good Enough’ is musical pathetic fallacy with mournful strings and glum lyrics in which she laments, naturally, that she is never good enough. One can only assume that she is comparing herself with Florence Welch.
At a time when weird, wonderful and formidable frontwomen are rife, Theoretical Girl is simply just surplus to requirements; not eccentric enough to contend with the chamber pop of Bat For Lashes, nor enough of a powerhouse to match Florence and the Machine. But if it’s any consolation, she’s a hell of a lot better than La Roux.