Frank YangWhenever I see reviews of Kate Nash’s just-released sophomore effort My Best Friend Is You that put forward the tracks that represent her well-documented discovery of Riot Grrl as the standouts and bemoan the number of pure pop numbers on the record, I have to wonder if the writers of said pieces actually like Kate Nash. Because as commendable as it is that she’s seeking to branch out beyond her precocious piano girl image and explore her interest in louder, rawer sounds, the inescapable fact is is that she’s not very good at it.
In its finest moments, Best Friend finds Nash taking what made Made Of Bricks such a delight – the fast-talking sass and hooky piano-led melodies – and honing them further, exhibiting the growth you’d expect over three years without sounding too grown-up. Tracks like “Paris”, “Don’t You Want To Share The Guilt” and lead single “Do Wah Do” are immediate and indelibly catchy sugar bombs that hold up over repeat listens, and the like thankfully outnumber those where Nash attempts to get her punk on. While “Mansion Song” actually works better than you’d expect, segueing from profanity-laced spoken word intro into a clattering, stomping sing-along, other stylistic forays like “I Just Love You More” find Nash tries to sound angry and guttural but instead comes across as on the verge of laughing hysterically – probably not the desired effect – and the lo-fi “I’ve Got A Secret” just wobbles aimlessly. But missteps aside – Bricks had its share as well – Best Friend is a largely enjoyable listen that gives Nash fans what they want… and sometimes you have to take the crunchy with the smooth.
That said, the balance of the two wasn’t what many would have liked on Monday night at the Mod Club in Toronto. It marked the kickoff of her North American tour and in rounding up support acts, she didn’t have to look too far. Rachel Trachtenburg opened for Nash before – The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players opened up for her on a number of her 2008 dates – but this time, she was fronting her new band Supercute!, which teamed the 16-year old with 13- and 14-year old accomplices in shiny outfits and giant hair bows, playing Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd covers alongside self-penned songs about candy, hula-hooping and boys. It was short, sweet and strange. Considering that there would have been an hour wait between the end of Supercute!’s set and the start of Nash’s, the unbilled set by Nash guitarist Brett Alaimo was a welcome one. Playing mostly solo, except for one song where he was accompanied by the rest of Nash’s band, he was part Libertines, part Billy Bragg and part spoken-word poet/stand-up comic. Certainly a more enjoyable way to pass the time than constantly checking my mail (especially since I wasn’t getting much mail).
At this point it’s worth noting that this show was a) all-ages and b) sold-out, which is generally a recipe for a) feeling old and b) losing a few degrees of hearing from the squealing that inevitably occurs when the headlining act comes on stage. And so it was that the crowd went mad when Kate Nash finally followed her band onstage and seated herself at the keyboard with the empowering message, “A c*nt is a useful thing” emblazoned across a sheet draped off it (the message itself wasn’t censored, just my transcription). Grinning ear to ear at the enthusiasm of the crowd, she kicked off with Best Friend‘s “Paris”, which proved as excellent a set opener as it is an album opener, and straight into “Do Wah Do” and then Bricks’ “Mouthwash”, all sounding great and setting the tone for what was looking like a terrific show. She then surprised by moving over to guitar for the next song and remaining there for the next few numbers, all scrappy pop selections from the new record and all also sounding quite good.
The second half of the show was decidedly less triumphant, with the more questionable bits of her repertoire making appearances and Nash seemingly determined to redefine herself as guitar-wielding rocker chick right then and there. While some fans indulged her, even attempting to pogo or mosh a bit, most waited patiently for her to get back to doing what she did best. They were repaid with the likes of “Foundations” and “Very Merry”, but the show failed to end on a high note. Both main set closers “Mansion Song” and “I Just Love You More” came across more awkward live than on record – and as stated, the latter was pretty awkward to begin with – and the encore selection was b-side “Model Behaviour”, which gave Nash leave to do more shrieking and sent many heading for an early exit.
Poor finish aside, the night still went in the win column though only barely. This was my first time seeing Nash live and it was great to finally hear some of those songs done live – though more than three selections from Bricks would have been nice – and Nash’s rapport with her very devout fanbase was charming and fun to watch. But if she’s going to continue to try and be the second coming of Bikini Kill, she’s really going to have to work on her screaming.
The Toronto Sun, Spin, Exclaim, Chart and Panic Manual also have reviews of the show while The Daily Mail and Nylon have interviews with Nash.
Photos: Kate Nash, Brett Alaimo, Supercute! @ The Mod Club – April 26, 2010
MP3: Kate Nash – “I Just Love You More”
MP3: Kate Nash – “We Get On” (live at the BBC)
MP3: Supercute! – “Not To Write About Boys”
Video: Kate Nash – “Do Wah Doo”
Video: Kate Nash – “Foundations”
Video: Kate Nash – “Mouthwash”
Video: Kate Nash – “Pumpkin Soup”
Video: Supercute! – “Not To Write About Boys”
MySpace: Kate Nash
The San Francisco Examiner and The Portland Mercury interview The Wedding Present’s David Lewis Gedge.
Under The Radar talks to Ian McCulloch and The Centre Daily Times to Will Sargent, both of Echo & The Bunnymen.
The Music Slut asks eight questions of Los Campesinos!, who’ve finally beat the volcano and made it over to North America.
Camera Obscura, who were already on this side of the Atlantic when Iceland blew up, talked to Under The Radar at Coachella.
The Boston Herald interviews Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison. They’re at the Opera House on May 4.
Many – myself included – thought that two nights at the Sound Academy was overambitious for Jonsi, so it’s not surprising that the May 1 show has been canceled, leaving just this Friday’s April 30 performance. However the official reasons given aren’t ticket sales, but the logistics involved with tearing down the elaborate stage sets in time for a later event at the venue. Both nights were originally supposed to be with the venue in a theatre configuration, holding around 1200 if memory serves, but now the Friday show will be with the Sound Academy at full size. All Saturday tickets will be valid for Friday and refunds are also available. Unfortunate venue aside, all reports from the tour have been that the show is astonishing so if you can swallow the Sound Academy, it could be worth your while. Or even more disappointing.
The Summer concert season continues to shape up with a bunch more announcements to go with the slew that came yesterday. The Gaslight Anthem will be at the Sound Academy on July 14, presale already open. Their new album American Slang is due out June 14 and New Zealand City, Spinner and Gibson Guitars have features on the band.
Bear In Heaven and Twin Sister are teaming up for a Summer tour that stops in at the El Mocambo on July 15. Spoonfed interviews Bear In Heaven.
MP3: Bear In Heaven – “Bag Of Bags”
MP3: Twin Sister – “Dry Hump”
Their show at the Mod Club tomorrow having sold out in a hiccup, MGMT are playing a more appropriately-sized room in the Kool Haus when they return on August 5. Tickets are $35 in advance, on sale Friday.
I’m a little surprised that Australia’s Empire Of The Sun is fixing to do a few North American dates around their Lollapalooza appearance – 2008’s Walking On A Dream didn’t exactly do mad business over here. I still prefer The Sleepy Jackson to EOTS’ electro-disco-glam, but am intrigued by the Toronto date at the Sound Academy on August 8 as apparently the live show is a spectacle and a half.
Video: Empire Of The Sun – “Walking On A Dream”
Video: Empire Of The Sun – “We Are The People”
And CBC Radio 3 has revealed the first wave of acts playing this year’s Hillside Festival in Guelph on July 23, 24 and 25. Lots of familiar names, but still immensely quality – you’ve got Los Lobos, The Hidden Cameras, Basia Bulat, Calexico and Sarah Harmer, to name but a few. Tickets go on sale this Saturday.