by Joe Mis
– Sr. Columnist —
Things must be pretty bleak and depressing in the world of the U.K.’s Bad Pollyanna. The Alternative/Gothic quarter has put the finishing touches on their second album, entitled The Broken Toys – an apt name since the lyrics tend to focus on the darker side of life – uncertainty, loss, violence, and sadness.
Olivia Hyde fronts the band and does an admirable job. Her voice is clear and strong, delivering emotion and power throughout. At times she’ll bring back memories of Girlschool or Joan Jett, and at others she stands unique and alone. She also does a good job on the piano, delivering delicate and haunting keys when the music calls for it. Stephen Kilpatrick contributes strong rhythm guitars, using simple but effective hooks to complement the songs, but the backbone of the music is definitely the driving bass of Nikki Kontinen and clockwork drumming of Valerian Adore. The band works well together and their performances are tight and near perfection no matter the tempo or underlying style. This musical cohesion is highlighted by the album’s almost “Power Metal” crisp engineering that brings out their unique sound.
“Define Me” is a decent but fairly ordinary rocker with solid bass and drums, but nothing jumps out of this track to make the band stand out from the crowd. The lyrics are fairly straightforward – define and classify if you like, but don’t disrespect or condemn anyone for being who they are. “Bionic Heart” has a totally different sound, melding in plenty of synths and electronic sounds – but has an approachable beat and an almost pop chorus. The kicky rocker “Pull The Trigger” is a bass and drum showpiece, and while Kilpatrick’s guitars try to make it metal the effort is defeated by the heavy manipulation of Hyde’s vocals. “Hooks” is a dark and depressing Gothic Metal track with an overly repetitious chord pattern, although Hyde vocals are superb as she pushes to the top of her range and power during the chorus. “Ugly Love” starts off with a neat acoustic guitar riff over some electronic hand clap percussion, and then sweeps off to a spiraling vocal line that hovers somewhere between upbeat Pop-Rock and heavy Gothic.
“Create Me” is a very solid slow rocker with heavy electronic percussion and powerful lyrics delivered with a passionate vocals – one of the better tracks on the release. “Blood And Rust” is a blend of electronic rock with blues rock, and once again Hyde’s vocals are outstanding as she bemoans a lack of control and a feeling of helplessness. “Out Of My Mind” is a smoky, smouldering mid-tempo tune with a ton of swagger and a sound reminiscent of early Halestorm. “Broken Toys” is a synth heavy, mechanical tune with strong guitar hooks and fiery vocals – a performance that the entire band can be proud of. The acoustic closer, “I See You,” is the only light moment on the album, and it is a superb change of pace and a beautiful song both musically and lyrically.
While Bad Pollyanna’s music is technically excellent, many of the songs follow the same pattern – opening with dissonant keys or percussion, cranking up the tempo and power, and then fading to more dissonance at the close. The overall depressing, almost sinister tone of the tracks does wear thin after a while – and the constant dark mood truly needs some brightening. Even when the music is lighter and bouncy as in “Ugly Love,” the lyrics are moody and negative. However, as this is a young band with tons of raw talent any shortcomings will be rectified with maturity.
Bad Pollyanna’s The Broken Toys is a decent sophomore release from a very talented band. Fans of strong female vocalists will appreciate the massive pipes and emotional delivery of Olivia Hyde, while the album will please Gothic rock fans everywhere. The oppressive tone will definitely squelch truly broad appeal, but there are tunes here that will please almost any fan of modern rock. The multiple textures and patterns make for an interesting listen overall, and proves that Bad Pollyanna is well worth following as they grow.
Genre: Alternative, Gothic Rock
Olivia Hyde (vocals, piano)
Nikki Kontinen (bass, programming)
Stephen Kilpatrick (guitars)
Valerian Adore (drums, percussion)
1. Define Me
2. Bionic Heart
3. Pull The Trigger
5. Ugly Love
6. Create Me
7. Blood And Rust
8. Out Of My Mind
9. The Broken Toys
10. I See You
Label: Glitch 13
Hardrock Haven rating: 8 / 10