Here is something I learnt this week: the biggest number ever used in mathematics is called Graham. Which is kind of nice in its own way – it almost makes me wish my name was Graham. Inspired by this, I decided to create a mathematical equation all of my own, which I have called “Pollock’s Law”. It goes as follows: the record sales of the artist Emma Pollock, both in the band she came from and solo, are always far lower than you would expect in relation to her talent. On paper it looks like this – T x EP < RS.
The album is called The Law of Large Numbers, but sadly the large numbers are not units shifted. If it did then I guess 4AD would have held onto her, as for her second album she is back at Chemikal Underground, the label she helped found for the first Delgado release back in 1994. Her debut ‘Watch The Fireworks’ was a fine album, but somehow poppier and smoother than you would expect given her history. ‘The Law of Large Number’ is much spikier and unconventional, and also a less coherent affair, sounding more of a collection of songs than a joined up album.
That said, it does have some great songs, and one that is incredible. ‘I Could Be A Saint’ is enormously powerful, driven by pounding drums and a defiant chorus that holds a broken bottle to a boyfriend’s throat (‘How you going to break my heart, when you’ve never even made my day?’). ‘Red Orange Street’ plinks and plonks on a metronome’s heartbeat with a rich, deep production. There is also much diversity, from the rambling piano lines of ‘House on the Hill’ to the stark vocals of ‘The Loop’.
Trouble is, the way it shifts and change from style to style is also the albums undoing. The light experimentation of ‘The Loop’ sits uneasily next to the sturdy ‘Confessions’, and the leaden ‘Chemistry Will Find Me’ staggers to a conclusion like a man with a wooden leg. But there is a quality to her songwriting that still shines. ‘I Could Be a Saint’ is possibly one of the finest songs she has ever written, and as always her almost faultless voice sings in your ears long after the music has ended.