Remember ten years ago when you were younger and had better skin and more hair and weren’t worried that eating bread might be slowly giving you cancer? Of course you do granddad, and now you can relive the wonderful year of 2007 thanks to Kate Nash who is resurrecting her hugely successful late-noughties album Made Of Bricks for a 10th anniversary tour. Sure, she can’t reverse your receding hairline or undo that brief period when Scouting For Girls was your favourite band, but ‘Foundations’ was a good song, wasn’t it?
2007 will bring different memories for different people, but for me it summons ghoulish images of a purple blazer, teenagers wearing Converse trainers upon which the word ‘Rawr:]’ is scrawled in marker pen, Strongbow cider glugged from the bottle in freezing parks, bad hair, low self-esteem, Avril Lavigne, Paramore and Big Brother. Not a great year.
But I also remember Kate Nash. In 2007, all UK music had to be sung in a regional British accent, and no one did this better than Nash. Her cockney vocals, drifting between scathing and accusatory (‘Foundations’) and tender and wistful (‘Birds’, ‘Nicest Thing’), soundtracked a hundred indie discos and Skins-style house parties. I imagine, anyway. I was never invited to any. But there’s no denying Nash’s stronghold on British youth culture in 2007, even if it was relatively short-lived.
But how does Made Of Bricks stand up in 2017, a year when UK indie pop has been all but buried under grime, hip hop and a new wave of mostly international pop music?
Nash’s debut was startling upon its release for its quirky, experimental sound, its mishmash of almost nursery rhyme lyrics coupled with savage takes on modern life. ‘Play’ is a fitting opener, its crunch of percussion, mischievous guitar riff and Nash’s detached but alluring vocals inviting the listener into an album that is full of surprises. ‘Foundations’ is a track that needs no introduction, still excellent in basically every way, from Nash bemoaning the state of her new trainers that have just been covered in puke to the way she snarls about sleeping with her ex’s mates because they are much ‘fittah’. Every now and then a lad with a guitar will do a wonky cover of ‘Foundations’ at an open mic and you’ll realise that even a cack-handed acoustic rendition can’t ruin it. That’s the sign of a truly brilliant pop song.
‘Mouthwash’ remains just as head-scratchingly vague as it was back in 2007, its lyrics about cups of tea, skin and dental hygiene still baffling but hey, wasn’t everything in 2007? This was the year Tom Jones performed ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ at the Concert for Diana, after all. Yes, really. The subdued ‘Dickhead’, that sees Nash tiredly demand “Why you bein’ a dickhead for?” is an album highlight, its moody string section and Nash’s verging on bored vocals striking a nice chord between poignancy and humour.
I remember hearing ‘Birds’ for the first time ten years ago and never being so unsure whether a song was crap or not. But now, with the benefit of ten years of wisdom, I have come to the conclusion that ‘Birds’ is one of Made Of Bricks’ best tracks. It’s Nash at her soppiest – and her weirdest – doing all the mushy love story stuff without being all Richard Curtis about it. Its meandering, woozy rhythm is perfectly fitting of Nash’s style, almost purposefully haphazard, sometimes aimless, but always unmistakably her own.
There are times when Nash’s penchant for twee ditties, all hand claps and twinkly pianos, can grate a bit, and the likes of ‘We Get On’ and ‘Skeleton Song’ probably aren’t for everyone, but then nothing on this album really is. Even the most mainstream tracks, like ‘Pumpkin Soup’ and ‘Merry Happy’ were polarising upon their release, their semi-ironic happy-go-lucky lilt too much for a public used to a steady diet of Kaiser Chiefs and Leona Lewis.
Listening to Made Of Bricks ten years on, Nash’s ability to find stories in the mundane and life’s tedious minutiae is still remarkable. While the sound of these tracks is undeniably very much of its time, its lyrics remain as cutting and compelling as they were in 2007. But for many people, Made Of Bricks is so heavily tied up in nostalgia that it doesn’t really matter. Kate Nash represents a snatch in time, a moment in history that was soundtracked by her snark and sourness, all wrapped up in a flowery, cockney package. Having since evolved her sound into grungier, rockier territory, Nash will have to regress somewhat for her upcoming anniversary tour, but this temporary back-peddling will no doubt receive a rapturous reception by fans with fond memories of 2007, the year of Kate Nash.