Every cloud, so they say, has a silver lining. About 18 months ago, Kate Nash was a teenager from Harrow, moping round her house after being rejected by Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. She fell down a flight of stairs, broke her foot and was confined to bed for a number of weeks.
To cheer herself up, she started to write some songs while bedridden. Fast forward to summer 2007, and Nash has had a number 2 hit with her first ‘official’ single and her album has been brought forward by five weeks due to overwhelming public demand. Now that’s serendipity.
So why has Kate Nash struck such a chord with the record-buying public? The more lazy journalists have compared her to Lily Allen – presumably on the basis that she’s young, female, sings in a London accent and gained a lot of fans on MySpace – but there’s a hell of a lot more to her sound than that.
Yes, she writes clever little pop songs about crap boyfriends now and again, but names such as Regina Spektor and even poets such as John Cooper Clarke are as likely to crop up when listening to Made Of Bricks. There may be subjects on the album ranging from crumbling relationships to unrequited love, but you’ll also find songs about a child genius who sews her own mouth shut and a girl with a skeleton for a best friend.
It’s all shot through with such warmth, wit and vulnerability that you can’t help but be charmed on the very first listen. Forthcoming single Mouthwash documents the minutae of everyday life (“I use mouthwash, sometimes I floss”) before a lovely catchy chorus of “I’m singing uh-oh on a Friday night, and I hope everything’s going to be alright” kicks in. And once it kicks in, you’ll have trouble removing it from your brain for a number of weeks.
If there’s one thing that Made Of Bricks proves, it’s that the advance word about Nash’s songwriting talents was right on the money. Birds perfectly describes a conversation between two inarticulate young lovers, while the beautifully yearning The Nicest Thing will strike a chord with everyone who’s ever been in love with someone unobtainable. Merry Happy is the other side of the coin, a bouncy, joyous number celebrating the end of a relationship while extolling the joys of “dancing in discos, eating cheese on toast”.
The lovely tale of ‘girl meets boy, boy ignores girl’ of We Get On is also a wonderful highlight, if only for Nash’s hilarious delivery of the line “so my friends said what-ever, you’ll find someone better”, while also reprising Franz Ferdinand‘s notorious ‘party/arty’ couplet, and managing to make the line “Saturday night, I watch Channel 5, I particularly like CSI” sound heartbreakingly poignant.
Yet it’s the more seemingly obscure songs on here that bear up best to repeated listening. Skeleton Song is just incredible, with clattering percussion and Nash’s trademark piano skating all over the place, while Nash sings about a beloved friend who just happens to be a skeleton. It really shouldn’t work, but you’ll find yourself combing the lyrics over and over again. It’s also probably Nash’s most musically ambitious number here.
Those long-term fans who downloaded demo versions will find plenty to debate on here too – Dickhead has changed from a stark piano tune to a smokey jazz ballad with Björk-style sonic oddities scattered all around, while the show-stopping Mariella benefits from a beefed-up sound and some gorgeous harmonised backing vocals. The cryptic lyrics (“sometimes, I wish I was like Mariella, she got some pritt stick and glued her lips together.So she never had to speak”) just add to the genius of it all.
Only Pumpkin Soup will possibly give some ammunition to the ‘poor man’s Lily’ brigade, but it’s fresh, funky and danceable and gives a great deal of variety to the album.
Some fans may raise a quizzical eyebrow over some of Nash’s finest songs that are missing, such as Stitching Leggings, but that’s all the more reason to keep an eye out for B-side releases over the next few months – there are at least four or five songs here on here that could easily be Top 5 hits between now and Christmas.
So, from bed-bound broken foot casualty to creator of the finest debut album of the year in just over a year. That’s one pretty huge silver lining.