MADE OF BRICKS
There is a point, a fine but definite line, at which realism is separated from a plain old lack of artistry. Kate Nash and her debut album Made of Bricks, poised on the point of ubiquity, stand with one foot firmly planted on either side of that line.
Such is the buzz that has been vibrating around the twenty-year-old since the release of her debut single ‘Foundations’, that the album’s release date has been brought forward by two months. Perhaps this is why, alongside some wonderfully cheeky bubblegum pop tracks that perfectly distil the malaise and mouthiness of humdrum youth, there are others that would really have benefited from more than five minutes’ song-writing time being spent on them. Despite some real potential on the album as a whole, too much here comes across less as crafted naturalism and more as something scribbled out on the back of a bus ticket on the way to the recording studio. It’s very much a mixed bag.
It’s possible to sum up these conflicting elements in the one song: the irritatingly catchy ‘Birds’. It’s a sprightly little number whose lyrics I daren’t quote for fear of resurrecting its incessant iteration in my brain, which left me about ready to dash my skull repeatedly against a brick wall on rhythm in the hope of dislodging the damn thing from my head. It would be easy to dismiss the song based on it’s awkward, wannabe-deep chorus, were it not for the off-hand proley set-up and the bemused response that acts as a foil to every repetition: “Wha’?” The song sits on the divide between inarticulacy and being about inarticulacy. The latter is barely less annoying than the former, but does at least speak of a good deal more craft and effort.
There is much debate over Nash’s ‘authenticity’ – the mockney accent, kitchen-sink settings and off-the-peg romances – all of it largely forgetting that the point of art is surely its artistry. The album’s standout best is probably the quirky ‘Mariella’, unusual among the template copies of bad boyfriends, boredom and boozing; but even when keeping things determinedly real, Nash is capable of some delightful little ditties. There’s something almost Regina Spektor-ish about the pianos and vibe of such tracks as ‘The Nicest Thing’ and the doo-wop ‘We Get On’. The worst tracks tend to those that sound as if they were the quickest dashed-off: the ham-fisted inanities of ‘Dickhead’, ‘Mouthwash’, and unintentionally aptly titled ‘Shit Song’. Pulling off naturalism takes a lot of effort. Nash doesn’t put nearly enough of it in for this to be the summer pop classic it could have been. But those who deride her artificiality and theatricality should know that it’s these very mannerisms that bring the album closest to success: the enunciated intonation and masterful switches between singing and speaking that come close to rescuing these stream-of-consciousness ramblings. Close…but not quite.
This album deserves to be sampled before being consigned to the appropriate Marmite camp – but I fear that ultimately I’m going to be forced to place it in the ‘hate it’ category. It has some strong moments, but it’ll take an awful lot to recover from lines like “I use mouthwash/Sometimes I floss/I’ve got a family/And I drink cups of tea.” There: you almost made it to the end of a Kate Nash review without anyone mentioning the Lily Legacy.