sun 19/05/2019

CD: Lily Allen - No Shame | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Lily Allen - No Shame

CD: Lily Allen - No Shame

Broken marriage vividly dissected under the microscope on the singer's fourth album

A blur of lyrical energy

Lily Allen has long been an unlikely inhabitant of the tabloid sphere. She was born into it and her pop career sealed the deal, rendering her a recalcitrant victim of paparazzi fishbowl idiocy, ugly magazines and online sidebars. She is, however, one of the few to undermine this process, offering gritty, poetic response in song. “The Fear”, for instance, was a huge hit that also 100 percent nailed vapid celeb aspiration. Her fourth album is, at its best, her rawest and most revealing.

Allen’s last outing, 2014’s Sheezus, saw her less focused. Lyrically sharp as ever, it was hampered by lesser music and a sense that the singer was drifting along uncharted. On the aptly titled No Shame – or at least its first two thirds - she is on piercing form, excoriating herself, going through the psychological mangler over her collapsed marriage, which she places firmly at her own door. At times it recalls Beyoncé's approach on Lemonade.

“I’m a bad mother/I’m a bad wife/You saw it on the socials/You saw it online,” runs a line in opener “Come On Then” over spaced out drum & bass. And there follow songs about loss, guilt, jealousy, selfishness, and crushing loneliness. The calypso-tinted “Lost My Mind”, for instance, juxtaposes an upbeat tropical house feel with forlorn feelings of abandonment, while “Family Man” is a gigantic, piano-led, Elton-goes-trip-hop ballad, desolate but ever clear-eyed (“I don’t like most people but I’m scared not evil”), and “Apples” mourns that she may be doomed to repeat the relationship mistakes of her parents.

These and others are the songs that make the album. Eventually things cheer up and, unfortunately, slacken off. Her co-songwriter throughout the album’s initial conception was Fryers’ Ben Garrett, who gives it a contemporary pop sheen dipped in woozy downtempo electronica. The last few numbers simply don’t have the same impact, although “Pushing Up the Daisies” has a certain cute charm. The creation of No Shame involved many, from producer Mark Ronson to Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig to various guest vocalists, but it’s Lily Allen’s sweet, vulnerable voice that owns the record, alongside her finely tuned, wounded, and ruthless way with a scalpel-sharp pop couplet.

Overleaf: Watch the video for "Trigger Bang" by Lily Allen, featuring Giggs
At its best, her rawest and most revealing album


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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