Monday, January 14, 2008

Review: Kate Nash - "Made Of Bricks"



Kate Nash
Made Of Bricks (Fiction Records, 2008)
Grade: B-

Download: Kate Nash - "We Get On"
Download: Kate Nash - "Mariella"
Download: Kate Nash - "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You" (Black Kids Cover)

Alongside her fellow sass-rock progenitor Lily Allen, UK-based singer-songwriter Kate Nash has led a revitalization of piano-based pop music by adding heaping doses of dry-witted vulgarity and emotionally observant storytelling (though Nash doesn’t share Allen's reggae and hip-hop influences).

Both singers have used the social networking site MySpace to help bolster their careers as well as their larger-than-life personalities. Because of Kate Nash’s unique, rapid, and Allen-assisted (Nash career boomed when Allen placed her in her MySpace Top 8) rise to the top of the pops, as well as her stylized singing which a few critics have dubbed “mockney”, she has already incurred a healthy amount of backlash to go with her unprecedented success.

Whether or not she elicits such strong emotions from music fans as Made Of Bricks hits stores here in U.S. And A is yet to be determined. What can be concluded by actually listening to Made Of Bricks is that while Nash doesn't have the light charisma (or has many danceable pop songs) that Allen does, she also isn't nearly as self-absorbed.

You wouldn't ascertain that, though, by listening to Bricks tracks like "Foundations" or "We Get On", which detail the minutiae of a lover's quarrel and getting over unrequited love, respectively. On these songs, Nash brings an appropriate amount of vulnerability and a reasonable amount of wit to both her lyrics and songwriting. But the music doesn't cancel out the introspective melancholy they way that it should.

"We Get On", musically, is a fine enough slice of doo-wop inspired retro-pop. But when she sings about how she got over unrequited love by watching CSI on a Saturday night (maybe she should have watched "Garth Merenghi's Darkplace" instead?), we, as listeners, feel elated that she's over the dope. Instead of focusing on her supposed liberation, we're distracted by the bells and whistles of wordless harmonies and multi-tracked instruments. Good production is always desired, but it complement the song, not take the attention away from it.

However, there are also many tracks on Bricks where Nash sounds very promising, especially on tracks where the narrative focus is on people other than herself. Particularly worth pointing out is "Mariella", a story-song about an eccentric young girl. The track starts out in typical mope-rock fashion before slowly-but-surely becoming a winningly upbeat song about an underdog gloriously indifferent to the influence of her peers. It's here, and on the countrypolitan number "Birds", about an awkward young man expressing his feelings to his girlfriend, that Nash really shines*.

On the rest of Bricks, Nash dabbles with different forms of pop music to varying degrees (dig the folk-rock of "Dickhead" or the 80s synth-dance party of "Shit Song", not so much the neo-soul of "Pumpkin Soup") while keeping her irreverent wit and battling the forces of overproduction. It remains to be seen whether or not Nash will survive any backlash, but as long as she keenly observes the world around her moreso than her own, she'll become as great a songwriter as her supporters say she is.

Kate Nash On MySpace
Buy Kate Nash music here.

(Jonathan Graef)

*God help us all if Nash starts listening to The Replacements, or if someone ever plays her "Here Comes A Regular." Because if she does, she'll write an outcast song so achingly poignant and well-observed that none of us will be able to go outside ever again. In equation form, it's "Here Comes A Regular" + "Mariella"= devastating classic.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

ur review sucks. Kate Nash's music is by no means dry and full of wordless harmonies. Its an album that you obviously don't understand. the introspective melancholy, as u put it, is actually inspiring. The instruments layed down with her vocals create a smart catchy RELATABLE pop album...

5:19 PM  
Blogger barb michelen said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:16 AM  
Anonymous Stu said...

I'll have forgotten this album ever existed in about 2 weeks. B- is a reasonable rating.

2:39 PM  

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