Pioneer of her own genre, Emilie Autumn faced an interesting prospect surrounding the promotion of her new record. Earlier this year, she told us she liked the idea of touring the record before people had it; in turn the songs that were given a live preview were soon on Youtube and the Plague Rats were lapping it up. It’s now, months on, that her full album ‘Fight Like A Girl’ is being released, so how does it shape up?
“The album is just these chapters, one section from this book that’s really epic,” she further explained. Though not personally familiar with the intricate details of the story, Emilie assured that those with a love of the book find it means a lot, but those unfamiliar can still appreciate the story, the themes involved and theatrics of her music. As one who falls into the latter category, that certainly applies.
For those not 100% on the details of these chapters, have one further quote from our interview earlier this year before we get to it: “The girls that have been locked up in this really violent asylum in 1841 – for years in this torturous place – through some pretty amazing circumstances find that they have – or maybe always had – the key to unlock the primary cell and let all of the girls out. So, they realise – okay, all the doctor’s are sleeping…. Really, once they’re out they’re standing at this open gate realising ‘Wow, there’s like a thousand of us’ and there’s maybe 50 doctors and attendants and all the rest – now that they’re on the other side of the bars – who’s scary now? They’re the majority and there’s power in numbers and numbers are on their side. And, of course, there’s obvious correlations to now. The book isn’t about a story of the past, or this fantasy tale – it’s about right now. It’s about a way to tell the story of you and me, as women, in this world.”
Eponymous opener ‘Fight Like A Girl’ emphasises this tenacity and fight to defend a saying that shouldn’t hold negative connotations. Describing the 49%/51% gender-split in the population and supposed sense of inferiority, Emilie’s confident vocals and catchy musicality offer a real power to her point; the more sinister lyrics simultaneously tie into the disturbing nuances of the aforementioned story and affirms that females can still put up a real fight, one that’s worthy of being considered strong, assertive and positive.
Follow-up ‘Time For Tea’ feels almost Dracula-esque; ominous harpsichord, screams that border a theatrical death metal and a quirky gradation to her voice that works well with the darker undertones to her music. ‘What Will I Remember?’ offers a vulnerability, a confusion, delving into the most defenceless areas of human nature – doubt, worry, scepticism. Teaming a light orchestral backing and powerful vocals, it certifies early on that the challenge of taking you on a musical journey is a success, provoking the emotional responses you’d feel in a live theatre performance. It lures you into the tale.
‘Take The Pill’ infuses a more electronic nature, adding a cutting edge to the music; a sad number, this takes another twist on the human condition – despite a longing and strength to fight, we can doubt ourselves, perhaps cause ourselves to back down and settle for our current situations – “Get back in line, get back in line, you’ll be just fine…”
‘We Want Them Young’ takes a turn from the more elegant, theatrical numbers of this release; with an epic minor build up, this delves back to a distorted electronic undertone mixed with dramatic orchestral nuances, shrieking violins, calls for help from other inmates. ‘If I Burn’ follows with yet another menacing opening; utilising Emilie’s penchant for the harpsichord to present a more simplistic number. “If I burn, so will you…” proves the moment where the song builds up slightly. This track is deceiving; despite its sweeter sounds from Emilie’s light vocals and restrained music it’s a threatening number. You don’t need to be outlandish for this fight; the spirit remains there even in the most restrained moments.
‘Gaslight’ follows a similar idea to ‘If I Burn’, with a restrained musicality and simple elegance that lures the listener in. ‘The Key’ is a dramatic twist; it’s faster, it’s panicked and it’s striking. This proves one of the stand out tracks in terms of theatrics. Though an active story-telling, a blow-by-blow of events, the vocals are so expressive it’s perfectly suited to a stage. It has that personality and quirk of the West End; even though the music has already taken the listener on a journey, the vocals are the real captivator of this number.
As it flows seamlessly into ‘Hell Is Empty’, more evil tones come to the forefront over a clock’s ticking. It’s a big number, it’s orchestral – that is, until the glass smashes and the rats run wild. ‘Goodnight Sweet Ladies’ teams Emilie’s soaring vocals over a simple drum beat, stripped back to the bare minimum. As a female harmony joins in, they sing over delicate arpeggios for a simply angelic feeling number.
‘Start Another Story’ feels like a revelation, a new musical beginning. The escape? The sense of freedom? “Let the past remind you what’s done, now look for something more…” Closing number ‘One Foot In Front Of The Other’ is a reflection of the entire story, querying how she got there and where to go from here. Concluding the story with a song steeped in optimism, it holds hope for the future.
It’s difficult not to take this album track by track and describe the musical story you’re taken on, though this review is still ridiculously long even though a few songs were skipped. This is the opinion of someone familiar with the concept but not the exact story itself, so perhaps you think this viewpoint is completely off the mark. If so – music is there to be interpreted! So there!
‘Fight Like A Girl’ is theatrical and it’s a musical journey. Considering Emilie intends to turn this into a three hour production, it’s not difficult to see that happening. Musically, this is a journey that plays on various aspects of the human condition, that toys with choices of putting up a fight or sitting quietly and letting life slip you by. Having seen much of this in a live setting, the prospect of the whole record being given a theatrical stage is an exciting prospect. It’s not very often an artist can tap into the alternative genres, yet also create an album designed for a stage show, yet Emilie is a law unto herself.
For those who like something quirky and for those who like theatre, this release comes highly recommended. It lives up to every expectation that Emilie has given it: it’s dramatic, it’s a journey and it contains a certain fragility and strength throughout – ‘Fight Like A Girl’ doesn’t just rely on the plot of a pre-written tale. Everything from the direct threats in lyrics to the tiniest musical nuance were strictly designed for this story, and it’s a story well told.