Saying “I used to work in River Island – it was well shit” is a fairly unremarkable statement. It only becomes extraordinary when the person saying it is up on stage and could add, “compared to sitting next to Patti Smith on Jools Holland the other night and being the most hotly tipped young female artist since that gobby daughter of Keith Allen”.
A lazy Kate Nash and Lily Allen comparison is obvious. They are both hyper intelligent, sing like Stacey from the chip shop and have enough sassy charm to share a bed with daytime Radio 1 playlists and indie iPods alike. So it’s no surprise that, love or hate it, Kate’s last single Caroline’s A Victim currently hangs round her neck like an industrial sized jar of witty, pop Marmite.
Still, there is one glaring omission from all this cynicism – Kate Nash is actually rather ace and has more sides to her songwriting than an ill fated dodecahedron Rubik’s Cube.
Tonight, Caroline’s A Victim is played on guitar. Backed by pals on drum and bass, it sounds like Jamie T doing The Clash and still stands up as single of the year. Before we have time to think, ‘Christ, I didn’t know she knew chords’, she powers into lovelorn folk. Gone is the vocal twang, replaced by lump-in-the-throat melodies and the sort of accomplished balladeering that Nick Drake obsessives would think only possible after 30 years playing rustic music festivals.
And she doesn’t stop there. Flitting over to the keyboard. Cracking gags. Going all electro and dancing to scuzzy hip hop at a bat of a talented eye lid. With such an unrelenting and effortless display of talent, you are left wondering what she’ll do for an encore – a spot of plastering, perhaps?
Above all else, she’s a story teller and the mortar between these varied bricks is the age old problem of young heartache. Latest single Foundations is no exception. With just a mic and a lo-fi Casio, she quickfires wry, biting lyrics that are as blunt as a plastic bread knife. Her take on relationship problems could best be described as akin to a jilted Alex Turner. Future boyfriends be warned – you won’t get the last word and will probably be left a gibbering mess, begrudgingly admiring the character assassination.
Unassuming to the end, it’s all over too quickly, as she pauses only to say thanks before skipping off into the night. It is unlikely that she was headed for River Island. The retail clothing industry’s loss is definitely our gain.