Daily Archives: April 9, 2009

91. Lily Allen – “It’s Not Me, It’s You”

Here’s another recently acquired A…

Ahhh, this blog’s favourite little poppet drops in with her sophomore effort. And she nails it yet again.

lily-allen-its-not-me-its-you-album-youI am starting to wonder whether little Lily has me under some sort of spell. I don’t usually gush about pop releases to this extent, nor do too many albums make me smile as much as the front half of this one. But the proof is there for all to hear.

Allen hasn’t ventured too far from her core strengths. Yet again, she delivers a series of little vignettes about life as a confident, cashed up, socially active 20-something. Her lyrical skills are first-class, as are her timing as a vocalist.

The first three tracks are about as strong as you’ll find anywhere. She displays an awkwardness and candor comparable to Billy Bragg’s very early love-gone-wrong tunes.

The album does slow a little and gets slightly more haphazard beyond the openers. There are a couple of weaker efforts. Also the abandonment of ragga-ish feel of her debut for a cleaner Pet Shop Boys-style standoffishness does make this a slightly less approachable listen. But that’s a really marginal call. Lily still pops like few others.

I wonder whether her album title was inspired by George Costanza (although she may be a bit too young and cool for that):

File under: She’s still got it.

90. Billy Bragg & Wilco – “Mermaid Avenue”

As the fiery discussion of Pet Sounds reflects, I’m not particularly respectful of historically significant albums. But I do like it when musicians make creative use of historical work.

billy bragg and wilco mermaid avenue album cover This is a truly fascinating collaboration.  The story is Bragg was handed access to US folk-music legend Woody Guthrie’s songbooks which contained lyrics but little music.  He and Wilco set about reinterpreting them as modern tunes. The two acts play to their strengths very well. Jeff Tweedy is by far the stronger singer, and his band can finger-pick and sway with the best of them.

On all accounts, the collaborators came to blows regarding production levels (namely that Billy was overdoing it).  This shouldn’t surprise given Bragg’s recent form.

Irrespective, the resultant product is pretty coherent. The Wilco tracks are much quirkier, while Bragg tends to push the politics a little, although he also rolls out a starstruck Ingrid Bergman ode.  They highlight the humour, modernity and out-and-out fun of Woody Guthrie. Most of the tracks lean towards the quirky and slightly twisted.  This could lead one to think that Guthrie was more like Ween than Springsteen is his demeanour… which is a good thing.

File under: History can be fun