An age old problem in music is that of the second album. Artists have forever struggled with how to create a record that is fresh and exciting without being too similar to their début, while at the same time appealing to the fans they picked up in the beginning. Acts often find it difficult to strike that fine balance between creating music that is too samey, and creating music that is drastically different. Some bands play it safe, some go all out, hoping that their fans are loyal enough to stick by them. Results often vary – working out well for some, but disastrously for others. Can Kate Nash dodge the curse of the difficult second album?
Kate Nash first came to our attention in 2007, with Made Of Bricks, her debut album. Here was a girl who played her own instruments, and wrote cheerful pop songs about skeletons and locking yourself in toilets, which is always something to be celebrated. But she half sang, half spoke in a fake Cockney accent, and shot to fame partly with the help of Lily Allen, who was at the time doing exactly the same thing. Nash annoyed a lot of people with her simplistic story telling, her use of colloquial language, and that goddamn accent she insisted on singing in, even though everyone knew very well that she was from Harrow (she was a “posh girl slumming it”, according to Drowned In Sound). But yet her first proper single Foundations was a massive hit, providing soundbites for frustrated girlfriends everywhere (“Yeah, intelligent input darling, why don’t you just have another beer then?”)
I personally loved her, and have been waiting for what feels like forever for her second album, the lovingly titled My Best Friend Is You.
The thing that I always liked about Kate Nash was the fact that her lyrics were mostly about things that I could relate to. We Get On? I’ve been there. Nicest Thing? Yup, could have written that too.
The songs on her first album were cute, and funny, and though they often had very simple storytelling (“Saturday night, I watched Channel 5…”) that was the charm of Made Of Bricks. What I want from Kate Nash are songs that I feel like I could have written. Songs with narratives that could apply to every teenage girl in the land. I want quirky, silly stories about girls who glue their lips together with Pritt Stick. In short, I wouldn’t ever go to Nash for philosophy.
Sadly this is what we get. My Best Friend Is You is Kate Nash trying to be cool. Pop music isn’t very cool, we all know that, and it’s not credible, especially when you’re singing about being friends with a skeleton, but then that was always the appeal of Kate Nash. Now she’s apparently refusing to play Foundations in concert, instead preferring to scream over sustained guitars that play the same few chords over and over again (I Just Love You More), and sadly, this means she’s trying to gain the approval of people that think pop music is music for people who don’t like music. The way that she’s attempted to do this is to play on her ‘cool’ girlgroup influences (think The Ronettes, The Chiffons, etc), and take a lot of cues from the riot grrrl movement of the early 90s. As a result, the album is patchy, where it should be daring, and brilliant. She sometimes succeeds in creating a playful atmosphere that sounds like it could easily have come from a 60s girlband (Paris, Do-Wah-Doo) but the Riot Grrrl moments fail spectacularly, sounding like something Bikinikill would create in their sleep, and then reject for being…well, shit. Mansion Song is by far the worst song of the bunch – trying to be controversial but ending up being a cringeworthy, self induldgent, self important rant, in which she belittles groupies, though should be applauded just for the fact that it is at least a feminist rant.
Flashes of the old Kate Nash sometimes show, like on the charming Pickpocket, which is one of the few tracks where she is accompanied by a piano instead of a screeching guitar, and the brilliant Later On, which feels like a follow up to We Get On, featuring Nash stating that she will cry her “stupid eyes out” when the object of her affections realises she isn’t perfect. That’s more like the insecure, clumsy Kate Nash we know and love!
Sometimes, as cliched as it may be, that old adage if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it really does apply.
Don’t You Want To Share The Guilt?