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Reviews

Lily Allen
No Shame Annie Lord , June 12th, 2018 07:28

Detached, weary and hopeful: this is an unrelentingly honest album

Revisiting the pains of divorce, bad friends, addiction and loneliness, the confrontational goading of Allen’s early Smile-era music remains, but on No Shame it is shrouded in the spectres of adulthood: fatigue, responsibility and retrospection.

On this album Lily rips her skin off and shows us all the goo inside. Album highlight ‘On Everything To Feel Something’ deploys delicate piano arpeggios and sugary-sweet falsettos to cushion an upsetting story of a joyless one nightstand. “All I need is someone to walk all over me / Close the door behind you, please,” Allen sings as her voice distorts into autotune, as though her body was turning cold and machinic from the encounter.

Throughout the album, Allen’s lyrics remain devastatingly frank. As if communally scrolling through her text messages, we learn of impotent partnerships and maternal shame: “Towards the end we were not even having sex,” she sings of ex-husband Sam Cooper on ‘Apples’. “I felt like I was only good for writing the cheques.” On ‘Three’, a song written from the perspective of her toddler, Lily speaks with the naive candour that only a child could manage: “This afternoon I made a papier-mâché fish, Mum / I made it just for you / Please don’t go, stay here with me.” The album’s confessional quality is well-suited to an audience who thirst for the intimate dealings of private lives.

Rather than over-dramatise the already cutting subject matter with wailing harmonies, on No Shame Lily stays true to her spoken-word delivery; she sounds almost bored. As the album nears an end it becomes more upbeat, ska-influenced ‘Waste’ featuring Lady Chann is full of cheeky retorts and ‘Cake’ is a sunny R&B tune reminiscent of packed-out grassy parks, but there lies a queasy sickness underneath: "There's some light / Think you need it / You look so god-damn defeated / Why'd you feel so cheated?”

No Shame might sound more mellow than her earlier razor-sharp sass, but beneath the surface lies a gloom, one I’m glad Lily lets us see.

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