Influenced perhaps by Fiona Apple, some of whose lyrics recently appeared on her Facebook page, Manchester-based Elin Rossiter provides one of the most dramatic song endings you’ll ever hear on ‘Behave’, the first track on Elle Mary & the Bad Men’s EP ‘Bloom in Thickened Skin’. Describing her style as “weapons-grade lullabies” she engages in something of a sweet-voiced phoney war for much of it, idly musing if “this is any way to behave” before suddenly launching into a tirade and delivering her mother of all bombs in the closing line when she wonders how she can find a delicate way to ask him/her “to go f….”.
A spoiler alert isn’t really needed but if it catches you unawares, such as in a live performance when she really spits her cud as Apple would say, it’s dynamite.
Once a traditional folk musician she did a Judas and switched to electric guitar after a breakup. Whether or not the pain of that breakup remains, she does a pretty good job of dramatising it whilst digging out a pleasant little tune at the same time.
The folk history is plain to hear, though, on the three other sparse, minimalistic tracks. On ‘Undead’, ‘Ocean’, and ‘Pretend’ (all her titles are single words and death is a common theme) she sings very slowly and softly, almost soporifically at times and without the need to produce the piercing voice that by now you know she has when she wants to add weight to acerbic lyrics.
You can’t escape the impression she could work her very good voice a little harder if she wanted to, but she only rarely does.
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In the absence of an album – although it is understood one is in the works – regard ‘Bloom in Thickened Skin’ as an invitation to see her and her band live because that is where she really shines. ‘Pretend’ wraps up this 15-minute EP with a hint of her guitar skills, which are more impressive in a live setting.
Elle Mary and the Bad Men have just concluded a short tour of Italy. The promotional image for it showed her torn down the middle as if she’d suffered the wrath of Damien in The Omen. It isn’t clear if this is supposed to represent a split personality but there is something intriguing about this EP that suggests a complex character that will continue to unravel as further recordings are released. As she says in her own PR and notably in the third person, “Elle Mary is an artist who operates best when balancing conflicting instincts”.
In the meantime, if you’re still struggling to nail her style, think Emmy the Great meets Fenne Lily and you won’t go far wrong.
Bloom in Thickened Skin is available now, from Sideways Saloon Records