Lily in the pink
Lily Allen’s new album might be therapeutic for her, but we all feel the benefit
We all know that as musicians get successful, their well of experiential inspiration starts to dry up: no one ever wrote a good song about the difficulties of finding a reliable pool boy. But if Lily Allen ever feared she’d be short of material after her 2006 debut album, Alright, Still, which sold 2.5m copies, hurtled her into the nation’s consciousness and has kept her there more or less ever since, then her newest album, No Shame, finds her with subject matter to spare.
She’s had kids, got divorced, and even had to deal with a break-in by a stalker, but Allen’s gift, as it has always been, is not for blustering, gothic narratives but exploring the curiously quotidian. And so there’s “Apples”, a painfully spare account of the breakdown of her marriage, or “Three”, in which she imagines how her young daughter would have felt at the time (it also contains the world’s first lyrical usage of “papier-mâché fish”). Kitchen sink never sounded so sweet.
But despite the domestic strife that occupies her conscience, Allen is still a major musical player, as she proves by calling upon both old hands, like Mark Ronson who produces two tracks, and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, who writes and co-produces another, and also new collaborators to ensure her sound stays fresh. Her catchy comeback single “Trigger Bang” featured Giggs, and airy number “Higher”, co-written with her boyfriend grime MC Meridian Dan (he of “German Whip”), is another highlight.
More than anything, though, the appeal of No Shame is Allen’s own personality, which pushes through the album with unashamed, uncompromising verve (though her voice is also underrated — her fluttery top notes are as pretty as Joni Mitchell’s). It might not make her the easiest person to live with, as she’d probably be the first to admit, but it makes her a valuable presence in today’s music pantheon and this a welcome return.
No Shame is out on 8 June (Polydor)