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Wednesday, October 24, 2007 

I'm bitter, but I haven't been eating lemons?

Don't you long for the days when pop music was daring enough to be radical, when its main practitioners weren't drug addicts with nothing to talk about except their own innate self-pity, angst and brain-addling relationships? When social comment amounted to more than just saying "Britain is shit" and bands like the Enemy would have been bottled off any stage they dared to step on?

It seems then that we have a champion in Kate Nash. Yes, that would be the same Kate Nash who over the past year has been entertaining the nation with such profound lyrics as

You said I must eat so many lemons,
'cause I am so bitter.
I said "I'd rather be with your friends mate,
cause they are much fitter"

Her most recent single, Mouthwash, rather than being a completely empty, vacuous, vapid song shat out to help fill up an album being rushed out to follow up the bewildering success of "Foundations" is in fact a comment on the Iraq war. Here are the lyrics to Mouthwash in full:

This is my face, covered in freckles with an occasional spot and some veins.
This is my body, covered in skin, and not all of it you can see
And, this, is my mind, it goes over and over the same old lines
And, this, is my brain, it's torturous analytical thoughts make me go insane

And I use mouthwash
Sometimes I floss
I got a family
And I drink lots of tea

I've got nostalgic don't know
I've got familar faces
I've got a mixed-up memory
And I've got favourite places

And I'm sitting at home on a Friday night (2x)
And I'm sitting at home on a Friday night and I hope everything's going to be alright (2x)

This is my face, I've got a thousand opinions and not the time to explain
And this is my body, and no matter how you try and disable it, I'll still be
And, this, is my mind, and although you try to infringe you cannot confine
And, this, is my brain, and even if you try and hold me back there's nothing
that you can gain

Because I use mouthwash
Sometimes I floss
I got a family
And I drink lots of tea

I've got nostalgic don't know
I've got familar faces
I've got a mixed-up memory
And I've got favourite places

And I'm sitting at home on a Friday night (2x)
And I'm sitting at home on a Friday night and I hope everything's going to be alright (2x)

Even the most intrepid of literary critics determined to find a wider meaning or interpretation of the above would struggle to come to any other conclusion that the song is merely anything other than the insecure ramblings of a teenage mind unable to think about anything other than themselves. Nash, however, has other ideas:

“With ‘Mouthwash’ I read this play called Guardians about a female soldier who was pictured torturing Iraqis,” Nash explained to DiS.

“There’s a monologue from her and the one thing she says she couldn’t get out of her head was these women buy toothpaste, like they’re in a totally different world but they’re the same as her.

Perhaps not as ridiculous as some might first think, Nash explained:

“When you strip away everything from someone you have the same basic needs like brushing your teeth so this was saying don’t judge me... it’s a bit of a protest song really.”

Nash's own clutching at such pretentious straws would be more tolerable if so many other music critics hadn't fallen into raptures over her piss-poor compositions. In the wake of Lily Allen, who at least has an eye for some detail, even if it leads to similarly bad lyrics, the music industry, as incestuous and unimaginative as ever has sent out the call out for other young women with affected accents to sing about their inane thoughts. Instead of pointing out the fact that Nash, like other current indie year-long sensations such as the Kooks, are all the products of arts colleges and about as far removed from the working-class backgrounds they pretend to be from as is possibly imaginable, Kitty Empire and other so-called critics have lapped it up. She entered Pseuds Corner for the final paragraph of her review:

For all Nash's exciting newness, her observations can be as prosaic as they are fresh. Indeed, her genius is sometimes accidental. 'This is my body,' she lilts on 'Mouthwash', like some female Jesus, offering herself up for consumption.

Alexis Petridis is one of only a few admirable exceptions.

It's not so much that Nash is a one-off, but rather she epitomises the current wave of "indie" bands and performers. Taking their cue from the incredibly overrated Libertines, the likes of the View and the previously mentioned Enemy, who draw more from the Jam's music without bothering with their lyrics have both hit number one this year with their mundane ordinariness. When you consider that the View's most well-known song is about wearing a pair of jeans for four days, it's hard not to think that what was once counter-culture has like everything turned full circle. You can't help but welcome the likes of Ian Brown's "Illegal Attacks" (mp3) which has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer when the rest of the crop can't see beyond their own navel.

The Arctic Monkeys' second album, which eschewed the dreary obsession with clubbing and pubbing of the first album in favour of a wider view, Bloc Party's A Weekend in the City and the Rakes' Ten New Messages have been the few exceptions from this year's rather meagre crop of new music to dare to address issues such as terrorism, being in an minority and the emptiness of modern existence while not sacrificing the need to come up with a decent tune while at it. We perhaps ought to leave the final comment to John Brainlove:

I think the Iraq War was actually influenced by Kate Nash because she's so fucking brain splittingly awful in every possible way that she brings out the human genocidal impulse.

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