Emilie Autumn – Fight Like a Girl



We review the latest Emilie Autumn album, a soundtrack to the Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls musical she aims to stage in 2013.

It’s likely you’re already familiar with Emilie Autumn, a renowned dark rock violinist who has helped to pioneer the Victoriandustrial style of music that she herself coined. Emilie is known in equal parts for her talent and her extraordinary on-stage tour theatrics, with troupes of adancers and immersive live sets that echo prisons, asylums and darkly twisted dreams.

She is also very vocal and honest about her bipolar disorder. Her internal struggles infuse the dark structure and lyrics of her work, and it’s well-documented that she wrote her book The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls whilst in a psychiatric ward following a suicide attempt in 2005. And Fight Like a Girl has mental illness as its theme.

Her latest album Fight Like a Girl album (released on 24 July 2012) should be equally accessible to Emilie Autumn fans and newcomers alike. Though very much stamped with her signature confrontational lyrics and dark energy, it’s a departure in that it soundtracks a West End musical take on her book; a musical which aims to debut on the West End stage in 2013. Which is perfect, because the mind of Emilie Autumn is a musical waiting to happen.

With a satisfying dose of 17 songs on the album, Fight Like a Girl is a journey through the misadventures that befall the unwilling inmates of the Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls. It bodily drags you into the story with musical numbers that range from the bloodthirsty rage of Fight Like a Girl to the cold and brittle jollity of Girls Girls Girls to the dark tenderness of I Don’t Understand.

Lovers of the musicals of Tim Burton or Stephen Sondheim (Sweeney Todd) will relish the dark arrangements to be found here. Time for Tea displays gloriously jangling discord and a brooding build that crackles with negative ions the way you get before the unleashing of a true thunderstorm, punctuated with Emilie Autumn giving a virtuoso display of leather lungs.

Girls! Girls! Girls! is a gloriously arch and catchy musical number whose jollity belies the horrors of the scene it sets before our eyes: The nurses of the asylum gleefully list the pills that visitors can buy and feed to the inmates at their despicable leisure:

A handful of pills to feed the inmates /
We’ve got pills for depression, obssession, depression, aggression /
And, of course, discretion… /

Emilie Autumn produces some of her most classic work when giving voice to the asylum’s inmates rather than their tormentors: In If I Burn and various other tracks, the lyrics not only tell the story of the inmates but speak of Autumn’s own demons, and, because she is so generously articulate, the fears and desires that can lie in each of us listening.

Although Fight Like a Girl is currently still just an album it somehow is, already, a rich visual feast. Rewarding, powerful, ugly-charming and addictive. But it begs for the theatre presence it promises. A staged version of Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls is something we would pay to see.