CD Review of Made of Bricks by Kate Nash
Recommended if you like
Lily Allen, the Long Blondes, Sandi Thom
Label
Geffen/Fiction
Kate Nash: Made of Bricks

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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S
ay hello to 2008’s first MySpace sensation made good, America! If you haven’t already overdosed on fawning media coverage of Kate Nash, you’re bound to do so by the time the snow melts, but don’t hold that against her – the music business is a ghost town, and when you’re walking deserted streets, anything that throws off the slightest glint is bound to cause a commotion. Kate Nash, love her or hate her, makes a hell of a sparkle.

The Lily Allen comparisons are flying fast and furious, and they aren’t entirely undeserved – for one thing, Allen helped discover Nash – but adorable London accents and colorful frocks aside, they aren’t really two peas in a pod. Apples from the same branch maybe, but that’s enough with the fruits and vegetables for now. The bottom line is that for all the charm of Allen’s debut – and Alright, Still has loads of it – Nash’s debut might be even better. It’s a lot more uneven, sure, but it runs deeper; you may very well be too distracted by all the fizz of the sample-heavy production, or Nash’s potty mouth (sample song titles: “Dickhead” and “Shit Song”), but the heart of a poet lurks within this album’s grooves.

Her influences are more varied, too. Don’t go into Made of Bricks expecting to hear much of Allen’s sunshiny reggae-pop hybrid; strains of it are definitely audible, but they’re deeper in the mix, sharing space with any number of influences – she channels Toni Childs, for instance, during the achingly lovely “Birds,” only to turn around and run Blondie through the Xerox machine for “Pumpkin Soup.” It sounds so scattershot as to be ridiculous, but Nash’s voice – and we’re talking about her songwriting voice here, not her smoky vocals – is the thread that draws everything together.

She may occasionally get too cute for her own good, at least as far as some readers are concerned – eyerolls are perfectly acceptable when listening to songs about girls who glue their lips shut, or serenades to skeletons – but it’s as likely as not that you’ll be having too much fun to care, and anyway, the album’s lighter side only serves to soften you up for its moments of stark, sublime beauty. Case in point: The closing track, “Merry Happy,” which finds Nash bidding farewell to an ex-lover over a jaunty piano and sunny backing vocals. Sounds like an unofficial sequel to Lily Allen’s “Smile,” but no; rather than kissing off her departed paramour, she lays her heart bare, letting him know “Yeah, you made me merry / Made me very, very happy / But you obviously didn’t want to stick around / So I learned from you…I can be alone / I can watch a sunset on my own.” That isn’t just smart songwriting, it’s damn wise, and it sums up everything that’s right about Kate Nash.

There’s so much promise here, it’s hard to imagine where Nash will go next. She’s only 20, which leaves her plenty of time to fuck up, flame out, and disappear into the pop ether – but even if it’s all downhill from here, she’ll always have this beautifully audacious debut to call her own. If you have even the slightest weakness for foulmouthed girls with a gift for melody, don’t miss Made of Bricks.

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