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Music Review

Kate Nash: 'Made of Bricks'

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Kate Nash: 'Made of Bricks'
Released on Monday, Aug 6 2007

Has a popstar ever been this desperate to tell us she’s, y’know, just a normal gal? Kate Nash, the 20-year-old Londoner who’s staked out the top three for the last month with her second single ‘Foundations’, can’t stop extolling the earthy virtues of the capital’s singer-songwriter scene. “With us you can see it could be you as well,” she opined recently. “It’s beans on toast.” It’s tempting to write Nash an email - CCing in Jamie T, Jack Penate and the rest - to play devil’s advocate: “But, darlin’, you’re a popstar! Life should be champagne and caviar and filo pastry canapés teased into the shape of a swan, not blahdy beans on toast, innit?” Then again, if you’d gone from strumming a guitar in a hospital bed – after you’d dealt with a drama school rejection letter by throwing yourself down a flight of stairs – to number two in the charts, all in the space of a year-and-a-half, you’d probably want to stay down-to-earth. Sadly for Nash, Made of Bricks points to a future that's anything but ordinary.

Though its release has been brought forward by two months to capitalise on the success of ‘Foundations’, this debut LP rarely sounds like a rush job. Wisely, producer Paul Epworth - the knob-twiddler behind recent albums from Bloc Party, Maximo Park and The Futureheads – refrains from over-polishing Nash’s slightly wonky pop songs. ‘Play’, with its boneshaking beat and mantra-like repetition of “I like to play”, is a misleadingly avant-garde opener, but much of what follows is earthy, likeable and effortlessly melodic. Nash’s modus operandi is perhaps best captured by ‘Merry Happy’, a bittersweet tale of “dancing at discos, eating cheese on toast” with a boy who “didn’t stick around” set to a piano line no more complex than ‘Chopsticks’.

Comparisons to another LDN popstrel with a fondness for glottal stops are inevitable, but Nash’s rough-hewn songs aren't as glossy as Lily Allen’s sprightly ska pop ditties. She’s more of a navel-gazer than Allen, whose witty one-liners often feel like knowing winks at the listener. When Nash admits, on the boyfriend-bashing ‘Dickhead’, that “My brain and my bones just can’t do this anymore,” the difference between the songbirds becomes glaring: Nash is a spikier prospect than her crowd-pleasing rival; she'd never take delight in rhyming “alfresco” with “Tesco” and “weight loss” with “Kate Moss”.

At times, Nash’s Eliza Doolittle vocals become wearing. Midway through ‘The Shit Song’, with its infantile pay-off of “Darling don’t give me shit, ‘cause you’re full of it,” you half expect Nash to put down her guitar, clear her throat and holler: “Getcha jellied eels – £1.50 a paaaand!” But, at her best, Nash marries starkly revealing observations about teenage life to joyous, unshakeable melodies. The charming ‘Mouthwash’, with its hints of early Kate Bush, perfectly captures a teenager’s fascination with her own body, while the Motown-aping brass pomp of ‘Pumpkin Song’ houses a gripping tale of romantic infatuation. Best of all is ‘We Get On’, on which Nash ponders the fate of a struggling relationship over a Chas ‘n’ Dave piano riff, a toe-tapping beat and a chorus of haunting, Spectorish backing vocals.

Made of Bricks is a confident, affable debut from an artist who’s still got a bit of growing up to do - next time around, song titles like ‘Dickhead’ and ‘The Shit Song’ will not be tolerated. Thankfully, its combination of searing honesty and natural melodic flair – even the less impressive songs have decent choruses - offers ample evidence that, with time, Kate Nash can only get better. Sorry, bettah.

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