Olivia Hyde: vocals/piano
Nikki Kontinen: bass/programming
Stephen Kilpatrick: guitars
Valerian Adore: drums/percussion
- Define Me
- Bionic Heart
- Pull the Trigger
- Ugly Love
- Create Me
- Blood and Rust
- Out Of My Mind
- The Broken Toys
- I See You
Everyone in the alternative music scene in the UK – and possibly the world – has heard of Bad Pollyanna due to their single ‘Invincible Girl’ being chosen as a fundraiser for the Sophie Lancaster Foundation. A gorgeously melancholy song, it revealed to many people the angelic voice of frontwoman Olivia Hyde. But there’s more to this band’s sound than orchestral balladry. Having formed in 2009, they released their debut album Monstrous Child in 2013 (and a deluxe version in 2014). The album, which told the tale of a young woman taken in by a scientist and used to recreate his dead lover – a sort of female Frankenstein’s monster, if you will – revealed a rather intriguing mix of industrial stomp, pop sensibilities and darkly lush lyrics.
Now they’re back with album number two, the Pledge-funded The Broken Toys. The title reveals a theme of sorts, as the album is filled with references to discarded people and broken hearts – emo as hell, but beautifully encased in gloriously rich music.
The album opens with ‘Define Me’, a song already well known by the band’s long time fans as it was on the aforementioned deluxe Monster Child album, as well as a much sought after tshirt design. Its ominous intro gives way to a rad electronic/guitar riff mix, over which Hyde’s crystal clear vocals soar. Its racing industrial beat is rather understated, dusted with poppy moments and full of rather fierce lyrics: “ain’t it fun to judge?” Hyde snarls prettily.
‘Bionic Heart’ follows a similar tack, with industrial beat and electronic finish. The harmonising on the track is lovely, lending the song a rather ’emo ELO’ air.
The main aspect of most of the songs on the album is the clear use of combining opposites, as is evident even in the band’s oxymoronic name. The use of sweet vocals uttering rather sardonic and bitter lyrics; the tinkly electronica being almost but not quite overpowered by some surprisingly beefy guitar riffs; the heaviness of industrial posturing combined with saccharine pop moments – it’s all part of this most unique band’s sound. The album is littered with dark, gothy moments, such as the unhinged lyrics and swirly guitar riff in ‘Hooks’, the almost dance-y beat and explosive chorus of Paramore-like ‘Out Of My Mind’, and the flamenco guitar of ‘Ugly Love’ which almost fools you into thinking it sounds like a Justin Timberlake song. It’s really quite a trippy album to listen to, basically!
The last two songs reveal just how magpie-like and clever this band are, collecting shiny things here and there and collating them wonderfully. Title track ‘The Broken Toys’ opens with a tinkly child’s toy refrain before launching into a heartbreaking tale of how we’re all “broken toys”; a beautifully applied metaphor for all of us who have ever felt rejected or left behind – all set to a blasting stomper of a beat. Then, final track ‘I See You’ takes all that sadness and negativity and scatters it to the wind, using the simple strum of an acoustic guitar and Hyde’s otherworldy voice to remind us all that there’s always someone there for us: “When you are lost, I will find you…I’ll never see the strain of a label or a scar”. It’s an uncomplicated, plaintive song that almost sounds like a lullaby for grown ups. Aah.
With The Broken Toys Bad Pollyanna have solidified their position in the alternative world as the go-to band for emotional and dark, yet beautiful music. The album throbs with longing, fear, loss and childlike naivety – but also anger, defiance and attitude. And just when you think it’s too much, the dainty beauty of ‘I See You’ hits you right in the feels and makes you smile. As metaphors go, The Broken Toys is enchanting (im)perfection.