Kate Nash Gleefully Removes Pop's Gloss
Fri, 19 Oct 2007 14:40:42
The UK singer-songwriter Kate Nash, whose album Made of Bricks reached the no. 1 slot on the UK charts after its release in August of this year, has often been compared to indie darling Lily Allen. To a degree, the comparison is apt: Nash, like Allen, owes much of her popularity to the MySpace music juggernaut, and she also writes conversational story-songs that (sometimes snappishly) examine relationships and are delivered with an unabashed accent.
But such comparisons can cloud Nash's core appeal—and unique talent. While she does write catchy pop songs that carry an air of disillusionment, which keeps her on the same page as contemporaries like Allen and Jamie T, her songs come equipped with an extra dose of pathos that sets them apart—and will likely lend them more longevity. It's no surprise that Nash cites pop pianist Regina Spektor, and her album Soviet Kitsch, as a major influence—Spektor, too, leavens her quirky pop songs with a charming existentialism. As Nash remarks when asked if she has a melancholic streak, "There's no real answers, you know? There's no conclusion at the end of the story, really—it just is what it is. It's like how a lot of British films just end."
By her own account Nash, who is only 20 years old, started writing songs primarily out of "desperation and boredom" while she was cooped up mending a broken foot. When listening to Made of Bricks, which is due out in the US in early '08, one occasionally does have the sense of Nash just strumming alone in a room, working out some issues. The slow-burning track "Dickhead" can initially come off as a shock-value trifle, but—despite its name—it's an incredibly nuanced track, evolving from a lightly plucked bass rhythm into a lazy disco-styled sendup of interacting with someone who's incredibly, unreachably dense.
Nash does a delicate balancing act between overly-savvy self-aware kid snarl and true-blue, endearing vulnerability. The just-right sappiness of "Birds" encapsulates the sweet fumbliness of young love as a boy awkwardly attempts to profess his love in the chorus, "birds can fly so high, and they can shit on your head / yeah, they can almost fly into your eye and make you feel so scared / but when you look at them and you see that they're beautiful / that's how I feel about you." While at the same time, "We Get On," brings a new swing to a tale of stalking, as Nash admits to following a young man she fancies, who she admits probably "think she's a bit of a twat."
Like other young, female pop stars tossed into the media spotlight, Nash is trying to keep perspective. Or at least not get eaten by the wolves. When asked about the double standards that women face in the music industry in particular, Nash, even-keeled but never prim, responds: "If you're a man, you can fuck whoever your want, do drugs, drink, fall over, be fat, be ugly, be old, be wrinkly and it's fine—it's just normal and people will love you and fancy you and want to work with you. And then if you're a woman you have to be pretty and thin."
Here's to hoping that this fresh-faced young songwriter keeps at it until she's got a wrinkle or two—or at least until we can purchase her debut album on US shores.
—Jocelyn K. Glei
Read more on Kate Nash in our Q&A »