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Scarlette Fever - Medication Time (Album Review)

Tuesday, 14 June 2011 Written by V O'Hagan
Scarlette Fever - Medication Time (Album Review)

Already hotly-tipped by teen magazines and with a single that’s been b-listed on Radio 2, Scarlette Fever has arrived with her debut album ‘Medication Time’.

ImageScarlette is an interesting character, a 28-year-old from Hertfordshire who has a soft spot for marine biology and a knack for writing catchy pop-tunes. But with her flame-haired, leather-clad silhouette posing acrobatically on the album’s cover sleeve, plus the Nurse Ratchet inspired title ‘Medication Time’, this record promises idiosyncratic pop before you even press ‘play’.

The first track ‘Crash and Burn’ is one of those songs that quickly engrains itself into popular culture. You hear it on the radio on a sunny Saturday afternoon, then it pops up in an episode of Waterloo Road, and the next thing you know it’s buried deep within your cerebral cortex like a flesh eating worm and the only way to remove it is to pick it out of your brain with your own bare hands. Stepping aside from that gruesome imagery for a second, ‘Crash and Burn’ is a perfect little pop song and a great way to kick off the album.

Scarlette’s voice is honeyed, mature and expressive, and the refrain ‘so what if we crash and burn?’ is sung not as a rebel’s mantra, but as a meditation on the necessity of risk-taking in a life that affords us no absolutes. (Suck on that one, Gaga).

The next track, 'Black and White', is another maddeningly catchy flesh-eating worm. With a chirpy Lily Allen-esque intro it builds up into a ballsy crescendo that a million young girls are going to be bouncing around to in the next few months.

‘Hour of Sunshine’ could almost be mistaken for a forgotten Pink track; it positively bristles with mischief, with militant undertones emerging darkly from behind the pop. Scarlette’s voice is thick with tough womanly irreverence, at times resembling Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna, but unfortunately the chorus flattens out into a girlish melody which somewhat compromises the integrity of the rest of the song. ‘Cheatin’ Man’ is a punchy track fraught with lazy, sexy guitars and ‘What Would You Do?’ is a particularly emotive song about the pressures of time and the insistence of death, inspired by the loss of Scarlette’s close friend. It has an urgent, vital quality that proves to be very effective– it’s the musical equivalent of someone poking you over and over whilst tapping their watch.
Female pop singers in 2011 can’t afford to go backwards and take their inspiration from the 90’s - girls like Lady Gaga, Lily Allen and Katy Perry are blazing a trail for women in music. These days pop stars are not just permitted but expected to be witty, bizarre, rude, dangerous, clever and surreal, and unfortunately some of the tracks on ‘Medication Time’ fail to meet this standard and become a little forgettable. ‘Good Day’ is a generic love song that manages to name-check pretty much every cliché in the bad-writing book: fireflies, whispered secrets, the moon and the stars. ‘Praying for a Change’ and ‘Let’s Go Shopping’ are unremarkable filler tracks with sluggish, uninspired lyrics and tired melodies. But Scarlette pulls it back with the outrageously beautiful ‘You Don’t Know My Name’, a song that stunningly samples from John Barry’s Midnight Cowboy soundtrack. ‘You Don’t Know My Name’ is a grand and dreamy tour de force, haunted by Scarlette’s woozy vocals and John Barry’s languid harmonica. Easily the highlight of the album, this song alone is worth the album price.

From the cover-art alone, you might mistake Scarlette Fever as a generic angsty pop princess, but Scarlette is a clever young woman who has written a genuinely accomplished debut. Unafraid to sit poppy future classics next to otherworldly harmonica-infused dreamscapes, ‘Medication Time’ is a musically mature record that teenage girls will still want to dance to. Stay away from marine biology Scarlette. The radio needs you.

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