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Flavour of the month (but still not to my taste).
on 29 November 2006
Lilly Allen is a well-educated girl from a showbiz family trying to be "chav". That's the joke. She claims that this album was written and recorded mostly in her bedroom, but given the fact that her mum's a successful film producer and her dad's a bit of all over the shop, her bedroom's probably the size of a small house. Mike Skinner, she is NOT!! Anyway, there's some good stuff on this record that shows a glimmer of originality, but sadly, much of it has been so processed and carefully manufactured by the record company, that it ultimately feels rather soulless.
Essentially, this is Sandi Thom for those too clever to be fooled by Thom's PR. The bit about Lilly working her way up the ladder through a combination of Myspace and secret gigging is all a lie, and has been proven as such by several broadsheet and tabloid newspapers. Audiences these days only want music that is "real" (I suppose this is to offer an alternative to the likes of the X-Factor and Pop Idol type manufacturing), so, the PR pushers have to pretend like these "musicians" are really hardworking chancers who've rolled in off the street. Never mind the fact that Lilly went to the same school as Katie Mellua and those public-schoolboy posers The Kooks, she's proper "with it" man, she uses the F-word and everyfin'. It's also worth pointing out that the people who say they want music that's "real, original and challenging" are also the people who criticise the forward-thinking likes of Scott Walker, or anything that's low-fi to the point of mere bedroom experimentation (the real, non-cooperate music, in other words).
The best songs here are the first two singles, Smile and LDN (Christ, more London-centric pop idioms... there's more to life than London, you know?), which were huge summer anthems, and rightly so. Lilly has a rather shy and nervy vocal delivery, which works perfectly with the underlining sadism of Smile and the sparkling, rose-tinted ode of LDN, whilst other tracks, like Knock 'Em Out and Alfie, work well for similar reasons. None of the other songs really do it for me, though. There's an attempt at a proper R&B ballad, which is the sign of the record company trying to iron out the creases and make Allen a proper pop act in the Jamelia/Ms. Dynamite tradition of putrid R&B, whilst there's even a song about her ex-boyfriend's cock (classy... no wonder this country's in the toilet).
If you like your pop with a hint of ska, hip-hop and a shard of R&B (all wrapped up in the cooperate pretence of "indie") then Alright Still will be the album for you. Others though will no doubt find the music lacking, the lyrics laughable and the constant reliance on kitchen sink bathos to be boring in the extreme (it's a fact, all songs by the year 2010 will have lyrics that read like a shopping list, or worse, a "what we did on our holiday" primary school essay). It's probably indicative of the self-infatuation rampant within today's youth culture. Why read a book when you can upload naked pictures of yourself onto the internet? Why bother saying hello to a stranger on the street when you can just knife them and laugh? Maybe I'm being a bit too serious... though I'd imagine that if Lilly Allen had said the exact same thing, I'm sure you'd all be quick to point out how "really" and "raw" she is.
Anyway. Perhaps I'm not giving Lilly enough credit. As I've said before, there are flashes of genius on this album, but the single elements don't create a consistent whole. Too often the album feels like a compromise. A balancing act between the songs that Lilly wanted to release and the songs that the record company insisted upon. The very fact that half of these songs are credited to about five or six people should be indicative of the piecemeal fashion in which they were no doubt created, tweaked and further refined. So, although interesting and filled with an EP's worth of good tracks, Alright Still just doesn't cut it for me.
Regardless, most people are right... Lilly Allen could very well be the one to watch; but if she's ever going to create a work of lasting genius she'll have to spend less time shouting her mouth off (really, how very punk rock!) and spend a little more time in the studio, writing songs, making music and standing up for what she believes in. Otherwise, she might just disappear with the previously touted likes of Lady Sovereign, The Music, Ms. Dynamite, The Others, etc... More music that was all hype and no substance.