It's Not Me, It's You
By Leila Regan-Porter
Lily Allen is one of England's favorite crazy birds. You never know what you're going to get when she turns up, which is what gives her that eccentric charm. She could be sweet and friendly, or drunk and outrageous. And though this sophomore album is a bit of a change of pace from her debut Alright, Still, the same thing can be said of her music. Like a bizarre, twisted modern-day Mary Poppins, Allen can swiftly move from demure musings of love ("Chinese" and "Who'd Have Known") to brutally honest, sharp-witted and vulgar ("It's Not Fair," Never Gonna Happen" and, well, almost all of the songs on the album).
Though the summery, ska-ladden beats have given way to a slightly more somber tone; the sly observations are still there with droll lyrics sung with bare-faced truthfulness and a tongue-in-cheek grin. The first single "The Fear" is not only the standout track, but it's also a succinct example of the album and of Allen's supposed new direction. With a chipper and cheerful beat as back up, a pensive guitar plucks along as Allen goes from pondering "what's right and what's real" and "how I'm meant to feel" to declaring her life "fucking fantastic." There's the societal judgments of "everything's cool as long as I'm getting thinner" and "I don't care about clever, I don't care about funny" that we heard in previous tracks like "LDN," but they are said with less of the bright-eyed youth now, and more with a world-weary knowledge that there's something very wrong with the direction that we're all going in.
Musically, Allen continues to mix the traditional British pop (not to be confused with Britpop, though there's a dash of that in there too) with twangy country ("Not Fair"), cheery Noel Coward-esque music hall ("He Wasn't There"), Parisian cabaret ("Never Gonna Happen") and nu-rave ("Back To The Start") in one big pot. It's a more toned-down, mature sound, and even the content (God, drugs, society) is faced by Allen in a way that would indicate that she might be growing up. But with still a few months to go until her 24th birthday, there's still room for songs like "Fuck You" (still, about bigotry) and "Not Fair," where Allen explicitly describes the lack of courtesy her new beau takes for her in the bedroom. So it's a slightly matured Lily, but with plenty of room still left for some naughtiness.
Lily Allen plays Atlanta's Variety Playhouse on April 15.