Kate Nash – Girl On Fire
I like Kate Nash. She is following a rich tradition of female protest singer/ songwriter’s like Joan Baez and Peggy Seeger. Thank god too that we have Kate when we also have to put up with Kim Kardashian and Nicole Richie.
Now Kate has gone from kitchen sink poet to alluring, candy lipped, punk princess to talk about the things that currently make her mad and uneasy with her new EP – Death Proof and the third album – Girl Talk, which comes out in February 2013. After all, she is nothing if not an acute, and times, painful social commentator. As a result, some critics (mostly men) and magazines are screaming for the old Kate to come back – (a poll in that oh so illustrious tome, Heat). Hats off to Kate for daring, in the finest tradition of female rebellion from Mary Wollstonecraft to Germaine Greer talk about what ills us a society, and how this in impacting on young women in particular. At this point Kate is taking dead aim at reality television, the unhealthy obsession with being stick insect thin and girls who look like Barbie with Botox, which isn’t very smart or pretty at all and a gross distortion of what is means to belong to the F club.
So, Kate has done something about it. In 2010 she set up her After School Music Club for Teenage Girls. The aim? – To inspire the next generation of young women to make music and set up bands, explore their creativity, and along the way to learn how the music industry really works – from song writing to sound engineering. Her third album, due in February 2013, includes material that has come out of this fruitful time, talking to the girls about the real and ever present pressures they feel from celebrity culture. The exciting news is that there will be a taste of what’s to come at Christmas, with concert at The Royal Festival Hall on December 1st.
As Kate says:
“Anyone who knows about the work I’ve been doing in schools with girls will get this. I have interviewed over 90 teenage girls over the past year about how they feel too ugly/fat/disgusting and bad about themselves to even think about starting a band or becoming a musician. THIS IS FUCKED UP!! The media and our celebrity-obsessed culture are destroying the self-esteem of our youth. We have become ruled by reality TV shows where 25 years olds get plastic surgery and Botox to look younger and more attractive, we watch singing contests in which a bullying culture is encouraged. We watch YouTube videos and laugh at a kid on the verge of suicide because he is bullied for being ginger. Magazines introduce us to women by age and weight first. No wonder everyone is so scared and hates themselves so much.”
So Kate has gone PUNK. Which makes sense, as punk represents a sort of disdain for the current status quo and order of things. The fact is she isn’t afraid to experiment and annoy people while she flirts with twanging rock guitar riffs and sounding off about the current state of girl power, and, she looks as if she is having fun and letting her hair down too! Kate is doing what all artists who want to be around for the long haul should do; she is exploring ideas, and seeing where it takes her, good, bad or ugly. As for Underestimate The Girl. She does say, “I wrote this song one night after rehearsal and I was emotional and pissed off and I wanted to shout about it.”
Well, it does come across as a bit of rant. I get the attempt to sing about being ‘p…ed off and disenchanted, but Kate, there is just one problem. We can’t hear the words! Though the general air of melancholy is clear…. we need to hear the lyrics, for maximum impact. Perhaps you could publish them on your website. So, I like Friend just a little bit more. This is a track that is cute, off the wall, sparkly, and shows Kate at her kookiest, with a sound that is now hardwired to my brain.
The new work is very different, and the dissent is already there. But as Kate says defiantly on her website, she is proud of the work she created on her first two albums – Made of Bricks and My Best Friend is You – but times have changed, and it is important to reflect that.
“ In my mind they are sort of musical time capsules of how I was feeling at that time in my life and they were the songs that I wanted to write and the stories I wanted to tell. But just to let you all know, I will never make those albums ever again.”
She is right when she says that it is important to experiment, push boundaries and not stand still.
“ Art and humans alike are supposed to grow and change. Jeez if I was still the same person I was when I was 16 that would be f..king shit! And the same goes for everyone. And if I’m the same person I am now in 6 years that will be shit too.
“ If you want a 16 year old girl back, you can still buy “made of bricks” in most record shops. I’m proud of the work I did then but don’t expect me to ever recreate it.”
Her new image is brave, interesting, chaotic, imperfect, defiant and just a bit crazy in a good way. It will doubtless annoy the hell out of boring people who just want another album like – My Best Friend is You; but where is the merit in standing still musically?
Kate has cast off the spoken poet of her salad years from Made of Bricks and embraced a far worldlier version of her teenage self, with an alluring, shiny slightly knowing fashion persona to match. Well, if you can’t beat them….
Back in 2008, I interviewed Kate at the height of her first flush of success at The Bestival on the Isle of Wight. I remember a confident, authentic artist who was honest, engaging and loved to talk about the things that meant a lot to her from expressing her personality in vintage thrift to feminism and her vegetarianism.
So, it comes as no surprise to see Kate dive into a slightly crazy new punk phase, complete with her girl band, who look just a little bit too wholesome for the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. Kate, take a look at artists like Grace Slick and the sisters who made up Heart. Now those bad girls could rock!
Alison Jane Reid