Kate Nash, mid noughties poster girl, returns with her first album in almost half a decade, Yesterday Was Forever. Historically famous for her trademark fun/feisty duality, has Nash lost her edge, or are her softened edges all part of growing up?
Kate Nash’s discography is relatively small, but undeniably eclectic. Her 2007 debut album Made of Bricks carefully picked apart the complexities of romance in a wry and relatable manner, all to the backdrop of catchy pop melodies. The perfect album to jettison her to fame in the noughties, Made of Bricks is largely revered as an indie classic, brushing shoulders with, and influenced by, contemporary works by artists like Lily Allen. Conversely, her third album, Girl Talk, mixed husky vocals with an altogether punk soundscape, where distorted bass and choppy guitars reign supreme. Though different, both are equally impressive, and a stylistic follow up to either is an exciting prospect.
Yesterday Was Forever, however, seems to be a departure from both aforementioned, sharply defined, albums. It moves away from extremity in favour of a more controlled and balanced sound, an attempt to blend genres in a subtle manner. Pop mixes with punk, with a sprinkling of electronica and R&B to diversify the concoction. What results is a cocktail of myriad styles and sounds. The blend is pleasing, and certainly comes together in an altogether grown up fashion.
‘Grown up‘. Therein lies my major concern. Nash’s charm was, historically, borne from her quirky personality and rough around the edges production. Whilst more musically ‘mature’ than her previous offerings, Yesterday Was Forever feels like it settles in to a comparatively safer groove as it progresses. Gone is the sharp, dry lyrical style of Made of Bricks, the jagged edges of Girl Talk polished and buffed to the point of making the whole album a little anodyne. The album settles for comfort, bee-lining toward mass popularity. An understandable yet disappointing result.
There are, however, a handful of fantastic tracks that evoke Nash’s trademark attitude and lyricism. “Drink About You” is one such number. A perfect mix of catchy pop rhythms and melodies, spliced together with distorted, crunchy guitar riffs, the track bounces and struts its way through three minutes of unabashed attitude. The driving, electric drumbeats push the track constantly forward, creating a solid backdrop for the chaotic and contradictory vocal parts, ‘I think I hate yourself / I think I hate me even more’. “Drink About You” feels like an angst ridden, break up song. Crackling with emotional tension and frustration, the musicality of the track is simple but effective. The song is evocative of the mid noughties indie scene that gave birth to Nash’s debut album, but harnesses enough modern influences to negate the cheap invocation of nostalgia, leading to an impeccably balanced tone.
Intelligent lyricism is also represented in “Musical Theatre”. Lovingly woven lyrics flow throughout the opening bars of the song, the relentless poetry delivered with style and aplomb. Not dissimilar in style to current poet extraordinaire Kate Tempest, if not a little less abrasive, Nash’s voice and songwriting really shine in this offering. The entire track feels as if it’s constantly building up to a climax. And yet, the climax never arrives. Nash cleverly plays with suspense, teasing an explosion of noise that never materialises. The track feels like it should have a second half, but rejects expectation and settles for leaving the listener wanting more. An interesting little interlude, it pushed me on through the rest of the album, eager for more after being surprised by the sudden end to “Musical Theatre”.
There are also occasions when Nash shows that her attempted genre tinkering can yield results. “Twisted Up” feels like a revolving door of punk and pop, chopping and changing between the two with exciting results. The shouty verses smack of an X Ray Spex song, with the heavy guitars forcing their way to the forefront of the track. Just when it feels a little too raucous, the almost chorus/almost bridge sections interrupt, making way for a more stripped back soundscape. Low bass synth and slower, more relaxed vocals give a brief respite, pacing the track rather nicely. “Twisted Up” throws you this way and that, an exciting journey that encourages you to listen just one more time, over and over again.
Nonetheless, despite the handful of wonderful tracks that really do deliver, Yesterday Was Forever falls just short of being great. By trying to mix her styles, Nash has somehow created something that doesn’t sound quite as good as anything she’s created before. When she gets the balance just right, the results are exciting. On the whole, though, the album feels simultaneously too distant from her otherwise stellar back catalogue, yet not radical enough to be considered a remarkable album. Whilst the song writing is solid, the album as a finished product lacks the emotional depth that first piqued my interest in Nash all those years ago.
However, an artist should never be too heavily chastised for adapting their sound to fit contemporary audiences. Musical landscapes are constantly changing and tastes are vastly different to a decade ago. Perhaps Nash has grown up and I haven’t! Maybe by yearning for Nash’s past, I’m ignoring the brilliance of her present… Why not decide for yourself by visiting your local Richer Sounds and listening to the album on some fantastic hi-fi today?
Author: Lewis, Chester store