Death Proof EP
17.19 min • Have 10p Records • November 19, 2012
I’ve always had a fondness for Kate Nash. From the moment I heard the line “you’ve gone and got sick on my trainers, I only got these yesterday” in her second single ‘Foundations’, I was hooked. Obviously, the backlash of an artist that people find “annoying” is always going to be big – and for every one that loved Kate Nash and her approach to music, several hundred seemed to hate it. One of the things most people who hate the Nash probably don’t realise is that, at heart, she’s not really a pop singer.
First single ‘Caroline’s A Victim’ flirted with rock based electro (before ‘Foundations’ caught on and her brand of mockney indie-pop was released into the wild), non album track ‘Model Behaviour’ cast her as a punk front woman to rival any punk band that has surfaced in the past 20 years, and her last album, My Best Friend Is You, took us through Riot Grrrl, Punk, Spoken Word and ’60s Girl Group pop songs. After disappointing sales of her second album, Nash was dropped, and being free to make the music she wanted to, set up her own label, the brilliantly named Have 10p Records. She released the grunge track ‘Under-Estimate The Girl’, written and recorded in 24 hours, to mixed (read: mostly bad) comments on the internet. Death Proof, inspired by the Quentin Tarantino film of the same name, is the first new material since then, and I was excited but nervous to hear it.
And d’ya know what? Its fucking brilliant.
Before listening to Death Proof, the first thing you need to know is it’s not really pop. Or indie. The melodies are catchy, and the songs follow a natural pop sensibility, but this is anything but pop.
‘Death Proof’ itself is effortless Rockabilly cool. It makes me want to grease my hair, break out my brothel creepers, and strut to the bus stop (this has already happened, by the way) while the Le Tigre-esque bebop chorus runs round and round in my head, with Kate’s cool as a drape delivery. Its accompanying video extends the cool some more, pushing the Tarantino reference further than ever before in a pop video (unless you count Louise Nurdings cover of ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’, in which she dressed in a black Reservoir Dogs style suit, in a warehouse and tied a man to a chair – only instead of chopping off his ear she drew on him with lip stick! Genius!). There’s nothing not to love so far.
‘Fri-end?’, with a goulish psychobilly video released for Halloween, could be considered a pop song (in a cool, hipster kind of way) but it’s a brilliant slice of ’50s girl pop about fashion being more important than friendship.
I never noticed,
The way you dress.
Well the way you dress was more important to you,
Than it was being my friend –
Starting off like ‘Blister In The Sun’ by the Violent Femmes before plunging into pop rock ’n’ roll chic, there’s a subtle jive in the rhythm that recalls Adam Ant in his artistic heyday (before ‘Prince Charming’ ruined everything).
I want a girlfriend with a place,
Somewhere to rest my pretty face –
sings Kate on the ferocious grunge of ‘I Want A Boyfriend’, which recalls the early work of Courtney Love’s much underrated band Hole, with its garage rock sound and its whined & screamed vocals – both of those are a good thing, by the way.
And of course, no EP is complete without a cover of one of my favourite songs of all time (it’s like she knew). Kate’s version of The Kinks ‘All Day And All Of The Night’ drips with punk sophistication as well as Riot Grrrl angst, making the line
The only time I feel alright is by your side –
take on a whole new meaning.
There’s clearly a massive grunge influence on Kate’s new material, and when she sings
I’m no May Queen…
…Validate me –
in final track ‘May Queen’, it could almost be an English folk version of ‘Miss World’ by Hole. However, with its minimal organ backing and sweet overlapping melody, it’s probably the most traditional Kate Nash song on the EP, and whilst I love the new direction, I’m sure that a large part of new album Girl Talk will be made up of this sort of safe(r) material.
I hope that people manage to put their preconceptions aside for Kate’s new musical direction, and she’ll go from being one of the UK’s most underrated singer songwriters to getting some actual credibility and kudos she deserves. However, if the haters insist on hating, it just means the gigs will stay intimate, and I’ll get to mosh around to more punk-abilly somwhere tiny knowing that I discovered something everyone else has let pass by.