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Lily Allen
It's Not Me, It's You Alex Ogg , January 30th, 2009 09:39

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Lily cops a lot of stick, doesn't she? A lot of people really don't like her. Especially rock hacks, I gather. It's that lingering suspicion that someone tainted with a 'celebrity' profile has no place in our orbit. And the nepotism charges. And the fact that she's a bit mouthy. Shame really, because what comes out of said mouth is often a breath of fresh air.

Allen's is an off-the-cuff feminism that doesn't reconcile career consequence when she's got a handle to fly off. The occasional foot in mouth moment seems a reasonable trade-off for having someone who grasps issues about representation and hypocrisy with specificity rather than settles for vacuous, please-everyone homily. Way ahead of release, she's already duking it out over the contents of her second album. There's been a minor squall over the opening cut 'Everyone's At It' ("when will we tire of putting shit up our noses"). Either she's a genius at self-promotion – and I don't think she is – or, as is her wont, this is just another in a long line of highly literal, unadorned lyrics ("I get involved, but I'm not advocating").

Sometimes she's not getting enough juice out of her backing tracks (more Pet Shop Boys-ey this time around) but Allen is certainly growing both as a singer and lyricist. She's developed a distinctive, easy vocal presence that channels her 'take me as I am' open-handedness perfectly. She can labour a rhyme, it's true, but there are always compensatory moments of eloquence. And anyone who can conjoin "suicidal" with "Credence Clearwater Revival" ('Him') is OK in my book. An unflinching, grounded storyteller, Allen conjures up a world in which other girls are taller and prettier, but a Chinese takeaway and a cup of tea can soothe most of life's problems (if not, there's always the credit card). She's not yet as sure-footed on 'bigger' issues; her put-down of bigotry on 'Fuck You', to the backing of what sounds like Mary Poppins' chorus line, seems just a little bit too worthy.

Allen is best when she shoots from the hip; I wouldn't want to be outed as the boy with impeccable manners but bedroom performance issues in 'Not Fair'. Elsewhere she's harder on no-one more than herself, and she'd be a lesser writer if she ever attempted to mask the biting insecurities that serve as the energetic to many of her best songs. For all the talk of maturity and 'difficult second album' syndrome, Allen still sounds youthful. There's also a good eye for detail that would doubtless be better recognised were she a male writer. Nowhere more so than on birth of a relationship saga 'Who'd Have Known' - a romantic tryst with added commitment anxiety perfectly encapsulated as having "just the right amount of awkward".

She closes out with 'He Wasn't There', about father Keith. Despite the accusatory title, it's ultimately placatory – a generous three parts adoration to one castigation. Fascinating how the song normalises her old man back into the traditional father-daughter narrative that she's claimed she craved as a child ("I'll always be your little girl", she asserts, as if glueing together her heart's broken crockery). There's a lovely reference to "his ex-wife" - Lily's mother, of course - that is perfectly once removed from the doubtless messy realities. It's just one further demonstration of her growing stature as a writer and diarist.

jonny mugwump
Jan 30, 2009 6:10pm

"And the fact that she's a bit mouthy. Shame really, because what comes out of said mouth is often a breath of fresh air."

Entirely agreed. even when her music lets her down, she just carries herself above it, at her best, simply sounding natural.

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_____ _____
Feb 7, 2009 1:49pm

"Allen conjures up a world in which other girls are taller and prettier, but a Chinese takeaway and a cup of tea can soothe most of life's problems (if not, there's always the credit card)" - FUCK RIGHT OFF.

How much did Lily'S people pay you for this puff-piece crap, Alex? The useless cow doesn't have a single good idea. Her only talents appear to be rank plagiarism (her "new" look, copped directly from Bat For Lashes, for example - who needs to write decent songs when you can just spend a grand on hair extensions instead, eh?) & designating all the difficult, "creative" stuff to her bevy of collaborators (who, I totally understand, "have, like, mortgages to pay off & stuff, y'know?", etc). And if you don't like any of the above she'll get her dad's heavy mates to give you a good seeing to, of course... BURN THE WITCH.

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John Doran
Feb 7, 2009 7:26pm

Yeah because no one dressed like Natasha from Bat For Lashes before her.

Do me a favour - this isn't 1973, can you leave the abysmal sexism at the door?

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_____ _____
Feb 8, 2009 2:33pm

In reply to John Doran:

'Fraid not. On reflection, 1973 was a far superior year for music than 2009 is likely to be so I'm quite happy settling there, ta very much. No sexism intended on MY part anyway (shit music is shit music as far as I'm concerned, what's wrong with that? The woman's a clueless fucking poser for God's sake, can't you see that?) - perhaps it's YOU who are patronising Ms.Allen by excusing the pancreas-melting mediocrity of her music 'cos she's (crikey!) a girl & because you (relucantly?) fancy her a bit too. Sooooo, we've established that your taste in women AND music is evidently appalling - care to enlighten me further 'bout the cultural k-hole you've been calling a life...?

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white hotel
Feb 8, 2009 5:51pm

Just a couple of things to pick you up on, Ian B. Firstly, dressing on-trend for 09, generic though that might be, is not plagiarism, any more than it is when you borrow your dad's waistcoat from 1973, when everything was so much better. Ah, 1973 - a year when common-sense and man music reigned, and yet - and here's my second point - there were no recorded witch-burnings even in that epochal year. Let's call your attitude to women what it is: medieval. If you had anything reasonable or interesting to say about Lily Allen's music, I imagine you'd have said it by now. The fact is, Lily Allen is an uppity bitch, and she annoys you. Long may her talent and her success rankle with dolts like you.

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Alex Ogg
Feb 9, 2009 1:39pm

In reply to white hotel:

Can I just say that a) I don't fancy Lily b) Lily's 'people' didn't pay me and c) that Keith Allen fella only frightens me when he sets foot in a recording studio.

Seriously, has someone bribed Ian into posting his Pavlovian riposte which, if nothing else, enshrines the validity of the opening lines of the review? Are you covertly one of Lily's 'people'? And if so, could you settle my invoice sharpish, please.

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John Doran
Feb 9, 2009 1:59pm

Well, given the fact that we only really write about music released after 1974 (the release date of Autobahn) perhaps you'd be happier fucking off to another site.

You know one where you can talk about killing women 'cause you don't like their music, how much you love your cowboy boots, how you have a panic attack when Bob Dylan isn't on the front cover of UNCUT and how it was much better when you could crack one off over the 'Blind Faith' cover without becoming a social pariah.

(And just because you seem a bit stupid let me add this slightly more serious bit: either tone it down or fuck off. I'll have no problems banning you from the site - we've got enough readers that I don't have to worry about pandering to idiots like you.)

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Mat D
Feb 9, 2009 6:28pm

Ian should probably tone it down, but I do not think he was being particularly sexist in his evident dislike for Lily Allen.

I am not mortally offended by her, but am a little tired of hearing how much of a 'breath of fresh air' she is. Perhaps I missed something, but many of her assertions are either hackneyed, ambiguous or entirely non committal.

That, for me, is a major difference between entertainment and art. It's like a rollercoaster, set up to provide the illusion of danger in a fully controlled environment.

If Lily was truly suffering from existential terror then I think she could do a little more than talk about Chinese take-aways and her rich friend's coke habits.

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Matt Milton
Feb 13, 2009 1:57pm

Putting gender aside, I think it's fair to say that a lot people of both sexes don't hate Lily Allen, but are simply uninterested in her. Here's why.

"Allen conjures up a world in which other girls are taller and prettier, but a Chinese takeaway and a cup of tea can soothe most of life's problems (if not, there's always the credit card)"

You're right, she's good at conjuring up that world. It's a boring world.

This, on the other hand, is total bathos:

"Fascinating how the song normalises her old man back into the traditional father-daughter narrative that she's claimed she craved as a child"

How does she do this?

"I'll always be your little girl", she asserts"

Yeah, fascinating.

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Max H
Feb 16, 2009 1:36am

It's nice to see someone judging an artist on the music rather then how many indie points you get from listening to them...

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Jon Doran
Feb 16, 2009 2:36pm

Would somebody care to take a few lines to explain "her growing stature as a writer and diarist" because I don't see it?

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