lenty of musicians have been born and bred as rich sons of bitches (Julian Casablancas, E, the ever-popular Crispian Mills). But none of them have brought the sense of entitlement and privilege to their music that Lily Allen does. Her recent interview with Observer Music Monthly discusses her “hard” childhood. What form did her distressing youth take? Apparently, and I kid you not, sometimes her parents embarrassed her at dinner parties, and every now and then she got told off for handing her homework in late. Jesus wept.
But none of this would be remotely relevant if it wasn't for the fact that her personality shines through so blindingly in her music. Lily prides herself on it. Sure, on her MySpace, in between slagging off minimum wage service staff in restaurants for not sufficiently fawning over her, and bragging about how much the Marc Jacobs dress she was wearing on stage last night cost, she admits that her early work is the sound of herself “pretending to be something I wasn't.” But now—real name, no gimmicks, Alright Still is the sound of real Lily.
“LDN” starts off with her moaning, in the style of a 67 year-old crank writing letters to the Evening Standard, about how a “crack whore” is ruining the pure and untarnished beauty of Her London. Care to find out how that crack whore came to be? Lily doesn’t. She’s off on her bike, pausing to “laugh” at an OAP getting mugged outside Tesco. “Smile,” a #1 single God help us, gets burned off the lights by both Sean Paul and Abs when it comes to facsimiles of “Uptown Top Ranking,” but neither of them could bring the quality of lyricism Lily does (“It makes me SMILE / I feel bad for a WHILE.” Are these lyrics being written by the dude from Incubus?)
OK, she knows her samples. Professor Longhair! The Soul Brothers! Sandie Shaw! This is the shit that plays in your local trainer shop day-in day-out, but that doesn't alter the fact that they're great songs. It’s just that she ruins them by putting her hateful lyrics over top. I'm sure the Prof's estate will buy themselves a few lobster dinners with the royalties from “Knock 'em Out,” but do you really think he'd be thrilled to be reduced to the backing band for a song about how Allen would like to beat the shit out of ugly people who dare to talk to her? It's no surprise that she's taken to covering the Kaiser Chiefs live, because like the feckless Yorkshiremen, and their partners-in-sneer Art Brut, her heart pumps to the sole beat of contempt for others.
I mean, surely we can all accept that ska-pop is a dangerous beast, surely? It can give us the heights of “Mirror in the Bathroom” and “The Impression That I Get,” or it can deliver the lows of every other ska-pop single ever. Lallen isn't woman enough to tame the beast, so we're stuck with “Not Big,” which makes me think how Abs could have done all of this better for the second time on the album. Or “Friday Night,” claustrophobic “cocktail bar at 6 PM” skanking that sounds like that one song Kirsty MacColl did about shoes as shat over by TV's Preston Samuel.
Look, every year music critics start stroking it over some musician just because they wish she was their girlfriend. Annie, MIA, Antony and the Johnsons... in 2006 it's Lily Allen. Except this year the object of their desire is going to shift units, and ends with a song called “Alfie” that makes you lose all faith in this country, a horrific “supply teacher trying to act cool to his third period class” piece of “yeah, weed makes you TIRED, innit blood” that destroys any hope that Allen could have Been Something.
Alright Still is nothing more than pop for people who hate pop music, poptimist Quorn, phony music for people who can't let go of their inhibitions (indie-bitions?) and have to have their music classified as REAL. Lily Allen is a coddled parasite who ain't lived it—she witnessed it from her folks pad. Scribbled in her notepad and created her life. That's how the song goes, right?
Reviewed by: Dom Passantino
Reviewed on: 2006-07-21