Kate Nash is properly pissed off. But we already knew that, after that ‘Under-Estimate The Girl’ video. Mind you, the sight of a snarling, pouting Kate Nash, coupled with all her talk about how inspired she was by Riot Grrrl didn’t do much for our expectations for ‘Girl Talk’; it basically left them entrenched in a ‘low-to-laughable’ zone. Oh Kate, we thought.
We’d already decided that she’d misunderstood the genre, and was likely to piss all over it. A quick spin of ‘Girl Talk’ and you quickly realise; actually, that’s not the case at all. To be fair, she might have only appropriated some of the feminist anger from Hole and L7, but thanks to a liberal use of some deliciously cooing backing vocals, the general effect is far more surf rock than anyone was expecting.
Without doubt, this is Kate’s heartbreak album; candid in its inspiration, both musically and emotionally. Yes, there are points when you wish she wouldn’t do the screaming thing; notably on ‘Sister’, because her vocals are more effective when she’s not audibly straining, and there’s something a little bit uncomfortable about hearing someone’s heart smashing so gutturally.
Having written the album on bass, the instrument’s influence on the record is clear. ‘OHMYGOD!’ is a case in point, although it’s when the chorus descends into rock ‘n’ roll that things become really interesting. ‘Fri-End’ begins with momentarily with a crunchy guitar that could belong on a late eighties Billy Bragg number, before turning into the kind of melodic agit-grunge that her beloved Kathleen Hanna would almost certainly be proud of. Kate’s vocals are bitter sweet for the most part, with her anger only being emoted briefly as she berates her subject for caring more about being cool than they did her.
‘Rap Final’ is a bit of a misstep, but mostly because it sounds a bit like when Jeffrey Lewis does his ‘Mosquito Rap’. Except because her subject is a far more serious diatribe about sexism today, it does feel a bit like she’s forgotten to include a punchline. ‘Labyrinth’ vocally borrows a little from – surprisingly – The Moldy Peaches, and is an absolute joy for it. Being joined by a full choir on ‘Freaky’ feels like an interesting juxtaposition on a track that’s in the main, just Kate singing along with an acoustic guitar. And ‘Lulabye’ is easily the stand out moment on the album, as she sings with no backing beyond the gentle ticking of a metronome, only to fade out and be replaced by an exquisite orchestration of her vocal line, that sounds like it’s come straight outta Disney.
You could level the criticism that Nash’s subject matter hasn’t changed since ‘Foundations’; she’s still singing about rubbish relationships and being a bit bitter. But as she dips her toes into a new territory musically, you can’t help but applaud her bravery. ‘Girl Talk’ is the sound of Kate Nash, stretching her wings and just pleasing herself. Really, who gives a fuck what anyone else thinks?
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