When pull-no-punches songstress Kate Nash gave fans a foretaste of her shift toward indie-punk with her Death Proof EP a few months ago, she definitely piqued our interest and built our expectations for her upcoming full length. The promised product Girl Talk, however, presents a mixed bag of good and bad that will no doubt make a lot of people scratch their heads and wonder what’s come over her.
It’s not a complete train wreck, so let’s start with what’s good about the album:
- Drama and emotion. While hooks are a bit hard to find on this record, the one consistent thread that will keep your attention is Kate Nash’s flair for the dramatic in her vocal delivery. Ranging from sweet, girly vocals to screaming and shouting, there’s never a dull moment when Nash is singing (or, um, screaming) a song.
- True to theme. The name of this album is Girl Talk, which Nash herself has described as a “mission statement of what it means to be a girl.” The songs definitely speak to that theme, from the unflinching look at chauvinism on “Rap For Rejection” (“You tryna tell me sexism doesn’t exist / If it doesn’t exist than what the f**k is this?”) to the complications of boy-girl relationships on “Conventional Girl” (“I’m tired of being the b**tch that you think I am”). The song “Sister” even deals with themes of lesbianism and confusion over same-sex attraction: “She wanted to be my lover / But my heart was with another / And yeah, I really wish that we could be friends.” While I admittedly don’t relate gender-wise, I definitely respect the messages on this record—and the drama I mentioned above makes the songs believable, at the very least.
So what’s the problem with the record? Perhaps the best way to describe it is that musically, it lacks focus. I mentioned there’s not much in the way of a hook within these songs (an oddity for a songwriter as skilled as Nash), and there are several times when the music itself distracts from the important themes the record is conveying. Nash chose to do this project independently, funded by fans on PledgeMusic, and while indie projects give artists plenty of latitude to express, the flip side is that production value can be more inconsistent if one is not careful. Thematically, Girl Talk is on point, but musically and production-wise, it seems to lack a rudder—and that takes away from the overall punch of the record. Nash seemed to wear the punk mantle well on the Death Proof EP, but this full length sounds as though the mantle is maybe a little too big for her—and not even the inclusion of two songs from that EP seems to make it better.
Overall, I don’t see this record as a career-killer. At a mere 25, Nash has already proven she has a musical range beyond her years, and I think she’ll have plenty of opportunity to refine and hone her overall direction as an artist. But, to be as unflinching as the songwriter herself, Girl Talk doesn’t really meet the expectations built up by the earlier EP. Die-hard fans won’t hate it, and many will forgive Kate Nash for her venture away from pop, however long it lasts; but this album isn’t likely to give Nash the forward momentum her career needs at this point in the game. Perhaps the next one will.