Monday, March 18, 2019

CD Odyssey Disc 1241: Lily Allen

I had a lovely start to my evening visiting with our friends Spence and Kim and their kids Eloise and Rosalie. Spence also brought me a copy of Buck Dharma’s 1982 album “Flat Out” on vinyl, which was a very big deal for me. I reviewed this record almost a year ago back at Disc 1123 where I hoped to one day have a copy in that format.

Maybe the universe was listening, or maybe I just have great friends. Thanks, Spence!

Disc 1241 is… It’s Not Me, It’s You
Artist: Lily Allen

Year of Release: 2009

What’s up with the Cover? Lily appears to have found the only comfortable way to sit on a giant “L”. My name also starts with L and I’m pretty sure I need one of these for my living room. I would not wear that dress, though; you can see from Lily’s pose she’s struggling to keep it from falling around her waist. For sitting, this L is rated “pants only”.

How I Came to Know It: My wife Sheila introduced me to Lily Allen. She found out about her through an old coworker and friend of hers.

How It Stacks Up:  We have two Lily Allen albums, this one and 2006’s “Alright, Still” (reviewed back at Disc 890). “It’s Not Me, It’s You” comes in a close second.

Ratings:  4 stars

“It’s Not Me, It’s You” is a record that will smack you in the mouth but do it with a smile and make you like it. It is sass-laden pure pop, laden with overwrought production. It is everything I shouldn’t like, but when it is done this well all is forgiven.

It helps that Lily Allen (with collaborator Greg Kurstin) has written such an amazing collection of music. These melodies are crazy brilliant, and all that aforementioned production is employed in the creation of infectious dance beats that enhance – but never overshadow – the clever production. Even when they go too far, such as the pseudo-rodeo bridge in “It’s Not Fair” it still doesn’t go too far. It is the musical equivalent of a bottle of champagne; delightful even where it is bubbling over a little onto the rug.

Lyrically the record is both smart and smart-assed. Allen is gifted at a saucy turn of phrase and she sings it with the artful timing of a spoken word poet. Like Billy Bragg she doesn’t lose her thick English accent when singing, and the effect makes it feel very street, even though the songs have been polished until they’re shiny.

Allen sings about a wide gamut of topics, both personal and political, and often both. “Everyone’s At It” takes aim at prescription drug culture, and how prevalent substance use (and abuse) is in our society and how no one talks about it. On “The Fear” she challenges consumerism, and “F*** You,” her song about George W. Bush, is about as pointed as the title would suggest.

Allen never loses her pointed sense of humour, even when getting political, and she turns that wit with equal precision on sexual politics. “Not Fair” is a song about a man who is perfect everywhere except one. Allen’s delivery is upbeat and sugar-sweet but her message cuts clear and sharp:

“There’s just one thing getting in the way
When we go up to bed you’re just no good
It’s such a shame
I look into your eyes and want to get to know you
And then you make this noise and its apparent its all over.”

Yikes. “Never Gonna Happen” is the reverse where Allen sleeps with someone, but clearly doesn’t like him as a person. Bottom line: the lady’s not for settling for half a package….ahem.

Anyway, near the end of the album she finally gets the man she deserves on “Chinese,” a sappy little song about wanting nothing more than a quiet night in with takeout food and the person you love. This song always reminds me of Alice Cooper’s “You and Me” which also captures the simple pleasures of doing very little with your favourite person.

My copy of the album is a special edition release that includes a bunch of acoustic versions, club mixes and bonus materials that push the song count from a tasteful 12 to a bloated 21. Unlike my recently reviewed Billy Bragg record, they are all on a single disc as well, meaning unless I am listening digitally, I’m stuck with all or nothing. It is a shame, because the acoustic songs in particular are good, showing the good melodic bones in a lot of the tracks but I wanted the original CD as its own set-piece.

Overall though, this record is a modern pop masterpiece. Pop music can age quickly, but ten years in “It’s Not Me, It’s You” is still as solid and fresh as ever.

Best tracks: Everyone’s At it, The Fear, Not Fair, 22, F*** You, Never Gonna Happen, Chinese

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