Sunday, May 2, 2010

Review: Kate Nash - My Best Friend Is You

Kate Nash is the kind of girl your mother warned you about: sly, two-faced, vindictive, jealous. You wouldn't have known it from her adorably saccharine 2007 debut Made of Bricks, with the exception of hit single Foundations which briefly flirted with the angst that she has decided to roll around in now that she's 22. Society tells us that we will march towards maturity and slowly hone in on who we are and what we want in this life. So what do you do when you're 22 and you feel no more self-assured than you did as a teenager? Well, if you're a pop-star on the verge of working on your sophomore album, you throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.

Nash makes no attempt to hide her varied influences here, but to her credit these often take the form of homages than rip-offs. From her Karen-O squeal on the brooding "I Just Love You More" to the spoken word verses and frantic string parts that sound uncannily like Los Campesinos!, Nash is experimenting with anything and everything to tap into something true. The one constant on this rollercoaster is her blunt and disarming choice of words. It doesn't take long to realize her bark towers above her bite, with her verses alternating between the self-deprecating and the furious. Of all of the ground she covers here, she is still at her best when she channels the 60's style production, as found on the albums strongest track, Kiss That Grrrl (below). The opening measures sound like they were torn from a Motown B-side, complete with requisite brass bursts, springy bassline, and a rolling drumbeat. Even the guitar plucks during the chorus feel like a sample from an early "Stand By Me" demo. You can nearly picture Nash on stage, turning from side to side in a bouncy bouffant. Even the lyrics reflect this change in tone, finding Nash at her most tactful and tender.  

Of Course, having a gift for candid observations can be a double-edged sword on songs like "Mansion Song" and "Don't You Want to Share the Guilt?" which seem like stream-of-consciousness cliches before she decides reel them in with a melody, if she does at all. But I'll give her credit for shaking up the tired pop formula and distancing herself from the Lily Allen's and La Roux's (both of whom still rule).

All told, her album is as unfocused and fractured as she is, and while that may sound like condemnation, it is refreshing to hear someone matter-of-factly sing about crying their stupid eyes out after making out with someone else just to make you jealous. A harsher critic would point out that she spent the previous song interrogating a boyfriend for doing the exact same thing, but they would be missing the point. Life doesn't follow linear, logical arcs. Stubborn, slippery things called emotions make sure of that.

Bonus: Doo Wah Doo

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