Poor Kate Nash. We gave her a right old bashing recently (here) and so we approach My Best Friend Is You with a high degree of fear. It wasn’t the riot grrrl influences, the aggressive filth that was spouting from her mouth or the personal politics that worried us. It was the fact that our recent gig experience of Ms Nash was of something so amateur, so lacking in quality, that we half expected to compare this album with the proverbial cat being strangled.
Thankfully My Best Friend Is You is not the nightmarish wailing banshee turd we expected. Instead it’s a mixed bag, with a few real turkeys, some so-so’s and a handful of highly likeable pop gems. In places it’s a very angry, foul mouthed, even cathartic sounding album. Certainly nobody could accuse Nash of playing it straight and safe, nor being bland. It widens Nash’s musical palette, skipping from breezy, brassy sixties girl group influenced piano pop ( Kiss That Grrrl, Do-Wah-Doo ) through shouty alt. rock ( I Just Love You More ) to lo-fi weary sounding alt folk (You Were So Far Away) and experimental oddness ( Mansion Song, I’ve Got A Secret). There’s nothing here that will find Nash hitting the heights of the upper reaches of the pop charts for as long as she did with Foundations in 2007, but neither is the record career suicide.
The good include the aforementioned sixties girl group pop songs which bring to mind everything from The Supremes and The Shirelles to the more modern context of The Pipettes first album. Also the pounding hooky Later On and the semi-spoken word Don’t You Want To Share The Guilt - a song that even though it doesn’t have a particular melody or chorus is the highlight of the album. Starting simply with some gentle strumming and xylophone it gradually builds with a throw everything into the kitchen sink production, with Nash hyperventilating a monologue that concludes that she likes to be a noisy lass because she’s got something to say.
There are also a number of songs that the skip button was designed for. The coming out of the closet I’ve Got A Secret takes a nursery rhyme melody and repeats the title of the song ad nauseam over simple drumming and grungy sounding guitar. Quality control went out the window here. If anyone wanted ammunition to shoot Nash down with this would be the song. Likewise Take Me To A Higher Plain takes some folksy hoedown sounds with Kate’s vocal providing a juvenile jump-around-your-bedroom-punk-girl-vocal. It was probably a lot of fun to make, but should have then been locked in a safe marked ‘We had a laugh that day in the studio didn’t we,’ rather than being put out for public consumption.
The most divisive track on the album however is the provocative Mansion Song. First previewed way back in October 2008 at a Moshi Moshi records evening (here), it starts with Nash spitting out the words of a groupie hate poem. “I fancy the hip rock ‘n’ roll scenester, I want to be fucked and then rolled over because I’m an independent woman of the 21st century.” Later she continues “I can get fucked like the best of men.” Then just to maximise shock value she adds “Strip, strip, strip and shag. Fuck and get fucked in drag,” before the music jumps into a C30, C60, C90 percussive lo-fi discovery of Bow Wow Wow. It’s certainly hard hitting and will probably be offensive to some. Whatever your opinion of it, all credit to Nash for at least not complying with female stereotypes. If the use of such strong language is entirely appropriate for any singer, male or female, particularly one who has a relatively young fan base who may follow her as a role model is another matter however.
My Best Friend Is You is hardly the album of the year. It is however in places surprising, interesting and passionate; and contrary to what you may have read elsewhere, it isn’t a complete load of toss.