Album Review: Kate Nash - 'My Best Friend Is You' (Fiction/Polydor)

Not quite the riot grrrl makeover of rumour, but in trying on new styles, she’s found her own voice

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7 / 10 Nigh on three years have breezed by since a certain 19-year-old shot up the charts with a whip-smart song about a relationship crumbling like make-up at the end of a long night. But our [b]Gaga[/b]-dominated times feel like a world away from [b]‘Foundations’[/b] and the time Kate and chum [b]Lily Allen[/b] ruled the roost, with their thoroughly British kind of pop: no frills, just lyrics loaded with savage wit and a killer way with an interview to win over the kids.

Meanwhile, it seems Ms Nash has been cocooned away with an ever-expanding record collection to devour, emerging now as a rather wiser and more assured butterfly. Previewed early via her website, the [b]Slits[/b]-ish [b]‘I Just Love You More’[/b] pointed towards a radical, grungey makeover. It was something of a riot grrrl red herring, though – a chance to show off her new-found affection for the underground that permeates more in spirit than sound elsewhere on her second album. Rather than a cynical ploy to win over the left-field vote, in the album’s context it comes over more like the natural progression of a still-very-young lady gradually uncovering her musical heritage.

[b]‘My Best Friend Is You’[/b] sees Nash ratchet up the calibre of her melodies, now relying far more heavily on the power of a good chorus and less on incising turns of phrase to draw our attention. Thus, lead single ‘Do Wah Doo’ is a vibrant nugget of passive-aggressive pop nous. [i]“Everyone thinks she’s a bit of alright/But I think that she’s not so nice,”[/i] trills our protagonist, coyly holding back the jealous pay-off until the closing seconds: [i]“Well… I think she’s a bitch!”[/i] That song’s debt to the girl-group sound is a recurring theme, most assuredly executed on the spectacular [b]‘Kiss That Grrrl’[/b] – an earthier cousin to the [b]The Pipettes[/b]’ [b]‘Pull Shapes’[/b] – full of brass parps and twanging surf guitar.

Indeed, where her debut sounded absolutely of its time, a reflection of the insular world of one very astute teenager, [b]‘My Best Friend Is You’[/b] is just as much in thrall to the past. A paean to her punk forebears, [b]‘Mansion Song’[/b]’s feminist beat poetry is a concise, contemporary update of [b]Huggy Bear[/b]’s pioneering riot grrrl stew.

It’s plum stuff and Nash generally proves remarkably adept at co-opting her magpie’s nest of influences. Only in the final section do they overcome her own personality, with [b]‘Pickpocket’[/b] a little too closely in debt to [b]Regina Spektor[/b] and the admittedly pretty [b]‘You Were So Far Away’[/b] filching the sparse, hushed tones of [b]Cat Power[/b]. Largely, though, Nash sounds just like herself, and that’s exactly when she shines most brightly.

[b]Tom Edwards[/b]

[i]What do you think of the album? Let us know by posting a comment below.[/i]

Click here for your copy of Kate Nash's 'My Best Friend Is You' from the Rough Trade shop

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