You like Kate Nash. Made of Bricks drew you in immediately with its hefty quantities of quirk, and Nash’s cutesy sing-song cockney accent was a harsh lullaby in your ears. But now Ms. Nash is back with her sophomore album. And while others may succumb to that dreaded curse on their second go-around, Nash leaps forward with a few minor collisions that she bucks off like a true queen.
To begin, there’s the kind of songs where nothing good is accomplished, like first album re-hashers “Kiss That Girrrl” and “Early Christmas Present”. But the real fun is seeing her metaphorically fumble the ball, only to recover. “I’ve Got A Secret” is spacey, ambient wailing like she’s auditioning for an all-girl version of Blur. The guitar rumbles through a stream of lo-fi energy. She’s no noise queen, though, as the ending of the drum that perpetually speeds up till eventually going nowhere is a bit of a rookie mistake. But if “I’ve Got A Secret” is the Blur misstep, then “I Just Love You More” is where she gets it right. The absurdist chants, the big, beautiful, destructive noises, the bent to oblivion strings; Nash learns quickly how to truly make something kind of lovely from a heap of sonic junk. Just as fun, though, are the purposefully awkward tracks. “Don’t You Want To Share The Guilt” starts off like any pop song Nash could have half-thrown together. But when it breaks down into a frightened stream of conscience, you get the sense that she isn’t afraid to fail.
Of course, this stuff is nothing compared to the actually good songs. “Mansion Song” is her most enthralling creation. If Wendy O. Williams and Debbie Harry busted out some freestyle about getting fucked and receiving chocolates, it wouldn’t come close to the cockney slang of dear sweet Nash. It’s hard to tell if it’s artsy satire (especially with the opera singer in the background) or some legitimate diss against some ungodly cross-section of females, but it’s as raw and emotional as she’s ever been. And the end, with some tribal drumming that evokes the spirit of M.I.A., only further cements her cred. If that’s not your thing (shame on you), then try “Take Me To A Higher Plane”. If Bob Dylan were a girl with a cockney accent and a fondness for the vibe of jangly folk tunes brimming with Riot Grrrl angst, he’d make this song. It shows off both her saccharine singing ability and her balls-to-the-wall feminine energy. Of course, as good as these two are, they shouldn’t excuse the existence of the dark, dramatic, and lonesome “You Were So Far Away”, featuring the line “I can taste the metal, feel the gun in my mouth”.
Anyone else who made an album of mostly missteps and a few shining hunks of pop magic would be considered a failure. But with her wit and self-deprecating prowess, Kate Nash has made an album that is light years ahead of her debut. And it’s one of the few cases where an artist makes a creative leap and you’re almost begging them to never look back. The gimmicks may not have staying value but are, temporarily speaking, such a shift that one can’t help but feel pulled toward repeating them, regardless of the damage they may do to her sound as a whole, over and over again. If that ain’t growing up, then I don’t know what is.