By Richard Wink
March 06, 2013
Kinda liked it, kinda hated it. Kate Nash has put out a marmite flavoured monstrosity.
It’s not unusual for a pop star to take an about-turn and aim for the road of sincerity after getting overwhelmed by the welcoming wave of temporary ‘super’ stardom. The artist’s own values and integrity were sacrificed in favour of them willingly attaching strings to their limbs and dancing around for tenners and twenties as a major label puppet.
Since being groomed as a post-Lily singer songwriter whose lyrics were candid diary entries bemoaning impotent commitment-phobic shitty boyfriends, Kate Nash’s evolution has been steady; we first gained a glimpse of her new direction on ‘Underestimate The Girl’, a hastily written and recorded ode to the Riot Grrrl movement. So, though it wasn’t a complete surprise that she would follow up that song by recording an album featuring a clutch of feminist rock growlers alongside some gender-politically conscious rabble rousing tracks, we didn’t really think she’d actually go and do it.
Kate Nash’s anger appears to be centered on the issue of how women are treated in the world of rock. But in a time when rock is suffering from one of its generational ‘deaths’, this call to arms seems to have come at the worst possible time, however if you widen the scope, and get a little imaginative, and see this album as a thought provoking comment about the shameful mistreatment of women throughout the world, then perhaps Girl Talk makes more sense.
Attempting to understand Nash’s slow turn is difficult. If you’re looking from the music exec’s angle then you’d think that she fucked up. Many big selling pop stars have wanted to display integrity, and felt that the music they released did not truly reflect who they are and what they had to say about the world. There’s a classic example when Daryl Hall (one half of eighties duo Hall & Oates) wanted their then new album to be a more artistically credible release, music mogul Tommy Mottola turned around and responded “Hits are the biggest part of your credibility.” In Nash’s case, a cooly received second record and the poor attention spans of the masses meant that, to put it bluntly, nobody cared about her anymore. She could therefore be whoever she wanted.
‘Part Heart’ introduces the new Kate, who despite having a different look, and a grittier sound, sings in a way that still feels the same. This one is a careful crescendo that builds and builds into ‘Fri-End?’, which, if I were being uncharitable, I would say sounds very Cribs-y. I enjoyed ‘Sister’ far more, as Nash utilizes her pitch perfect voice, and then as a contrast sings off key over mid-nineties sounding abrasive riffs. Sometimes on this track it sounds like she’s faking it, with the yelping, and screeching, and I wonder – does noise and rawness make Nash more authentic? Oh, we’re at this conundrum already.
Is Kate Nash for real? ‘OMYGOD!’ goes back to basics, all prettiness and petticoats. It is the feminine aspect of feminism. ‘Oh’ then tears up the previous rule, as pop harmonies and other niceties are refused and replaced by a few bars of cat wailing. Nash uses the imperfect-to-good effect throughout Girl Talk. But it is strange when a technically good singer decides not to sing very well. It sounds forced. Furthermore there are too many songs that go back to Nash’s bread and butter (‘3AM’, the explicitly luring single that calls out to her Made of Bricks era fans), meaning she doesn’t seem fully committed to expressing this previously repressed rage.
‘Rap for Rejection’ is Nash’s very own ‘Rudebox’, a knowing piss-take which quite frankly is baffling. Evidently this song is not to be taken seriously, and acts as bait for critics, but potentially the snark damages the wider point that on this album Kate is trying to make. Nash seems to be railing against sexism but the message is lost in absurdity. It’s the equivalent of a feminist shock artist sticking a flag adorned with the image of a Page 3 girl in dog poo and claiming that it makes a profound comment about how women are objectified in the media.
Girl Talk is a clumsy, unfocused album, that is not without merits, and though Nash’s heart is in the right place and her intentions are noble, this isn’t going to leave a legacy like ‘Call The Doctor’, ‘Exile In Guyville’ or ‘Dry’ – classic albums written by strong women who wanted to eruditely express how they saw themselves in an unequal world.