Album Reviews

Kate Nash – 9 Sad Symphonies

(Kill Rock Stars) UK release date: 21 June 2024


She might have packed it all in and moved to Hollywood to carry on acting. Instead, she’s come back with a record that’s easily her best since Made Of Bricks

Kate Nash - 9 Sad Symphonies Next year marks the 20th anniversary that Kate Nash fell down the stairs and broke her foot. Not a hugely significant anniversary you’d think, apart from the fact that Nash used her enforced downtime to upload some songs she’d recorded to MySpace… and a brand new pop star was born.

It’s been a bit of a bumpy journey for Nash since then. None of her subsequent four albums have quite captured the public imagination that her debut record Made Of Bricks did, and the 2019 documentary Underestimate The Girl demonstrated in unflinching detail just how toxic she found the music industry.

On the other hand, she’s also had a starring role in the hit Netflix show Glow, produced (and occasionally acted in) a show at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, and even wrote the music and lyrics for an off-Broadway musical, Only Gold. Now, six years after her last album Yesterday Was Forever, she’s returning to the world of pop music, and signed to the legendary Kill Rock Stars label.

It is, thankfully, a mostly successful return at that. 9 Sad Symphonies (there’s actually 10 tracks) sees a musical return to her early days in many ways, only with 20 years of experience added on. The opening twinkly piano chords of Millions Of Heartbeats are undeniably reminiscent of Foundations, but the lyrics tell of anxiety, alienation and the fact that “the media supports all the far right scum”.

The lyrics may be bleak (a theme throughout here), but Nash feels like an artist reborn through much of this record. Although the trademark piano remains, her sound has evolved and become richer. A dramatic string arrangement runs throughout the catchy Misery which is also utilised in the frantic My Bile, full of rapid-fire vocals and choral backing vocals.

Lyrically, she’s as caustic and funny as ever. Space Odyssey 2001 bemoans that the titular Stanley Kubrick film is “seriously, so fucking long” but it hides a rather touching tale of reconnecting with an old love (“I won’t forget the look on your face when we first re-met”). With its languid strings, it sounds a bit like Lana Del Rey, if she’d suddenly taken an interest in vintage sci-fi films.

Horsie tackles loneliness, “eating supermarket sushi all alone” and “crying in the carpark of a Home Depot”, and the excellent Wasteman is both furious and funny – a vicious takedown of an ex who spends his days in a druggy haze: “I fully disrespect your shitty wi-fi, I’m gonna have to disconnect… gonna need a fucking dongle to deal with you, mate”).

There even seems to be a return to her ‘anti-folk’ origins on the closing track Vampyre, a joyous, acoustic singalong about looking for love and finding that “you were under my nose, you were the one” – at times, it’s a bit like a more polished Mouldy Peaches, even if it does veer off in slightly unexpected lyrical directions, with Nash proclaiming “you’re making me wet” and then diverting into a tale of church-based masturbation.

After everything that Kate Nash has gone through in the last few years, as documented in Underestimate The Girl, it would have been understandable if she’d packed it all in and moved to Hollywood to carry on acting. Instead, she’s come back with a record that’s easily her best since Made Of Bricks, and it’s a beautifully satisfying conclusion to what has been, by all accounts, a turbulent few years.


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