Given that Kate Nash probably wouldn’t even have a record deal right now if fellow MySpace upstart Lily Allen hadn’t included her profile in her coveted “Top 8,” it’s not surprising that nearly every article written about Nash’s debut, Made of Bricks, compares—both favorably and unfavorably—the two U.K. singer-songwriters. Beyond the overt lower-middle-class accents, the sting-y platitudes, and sharing a common “friend” in Tom Anderson, though, there’s much to distinguish Nash from Allen. More able a singer and writer than Allen, Nash’s eccentric and exaggerated vocal style better recalls Regina Spektor, as do her largely piano-based compositions, though the Spektor-esque “Mariella,” on which the loud-mouthed Nash longs to be more like a girl from school who glued her lips together, is a bit twee and doesn’t probe very deep into its titular character’s psychology.
Bricks bounces along in its merry-happy sophisti-pop fashion, adding brass and woodwinds here and synth-pop flourishes there, and it’s arguable that there are a few too many studio gimmicks to compensate for the fact that songs like “Play” and “Shit Song” aren’t really songs at all. Luckily, Nash’s lyrics are charming and skillful, with huge mouthfuls of narrative information crammed into unbelievably small spaces. The verbosity adds humor where it might otherwise seem showy: “My friends were like ‘Whatever, you’ll find someone better, his eyes were way too close together and we never even liked him from the start, and now he’s with that tart and I heard she done some really nasty stuff down in the park,’” goes one 15-second passage from “We Get On.”
Unlike Allen, Nash cuts her spite with compassion and tempers her cynicism with a little self-deprecation. Of course, that means the snobs won’t champion her as faux-fervently, but Allen would never admit to exerting as much energy for a bloke as Nash does on last year’s U.K. hit “Foundations,” even if that energy borders on sadistic: “It gives me thrills to wind you up,” Nash confesses after the object of her contempt gets a little aggressive in the face of her barbed insults. The remainder of Bricks, however, is less combative, and it finds Nash attempting to explain her brain (“Mouthwash”) and otherwise pouring her heart out like a cement truck (the sweet, honest, and somewhat heartbreaking “Nicest Thing”). Even when she’s getting downright piqued, as she does on “Dickhead,” she offers: “I wish that you were more intelligent/So you could see that what you’re doing is so shitty.” She isn’t made of bricks—something else Lily Allen would never admit to.