I have a soft spot for Kate Nash, even after hearing her searing drunk-punk tirade Under-Estimate The Girl, which had most people declaring that she’d lost it. But those expecting a vicious new DIY punk ethos and a spitting snarling she-beast were left disappointed, as Kate was her normal happy, smiley self.
Date: June 22, 2012
Kate Nash has spent most of the week defending her new punk-fuelled direction and the new single it has spawned – the thrashy, biting, Riot Grrrl-flecked Under-Estimate The Girl, recorded in just under 24 hours, and sounding unlike anything she’s ever attempted before.
The song has come under fire from journalists, worried fans and of course her detractors for sounding like – and these are not the words of this reviewer – “a drunken karaoke rendition of Hole’s worst song”. And that is one of the few printable attacks amongst the ‘career suicide’ analysis.
Kate felt compelled to blog about her new direction in an open riposte, not as a one-fingered salute, but rather to put her views across and to explain her reasons for this dramatic sea change when, in truth, another ‘Foundations’ is probably what her career needed right now. But rather than wallow in self doubt or, worse, enter into a war of words with anyone with a derisory point of view, she admitted to finding all the intense confabulating quite motivating and exciting.
And this excitement is clear to see on stage at the Bodega. Her mood is buoyant, and she appears to be brimming with high spirits. There are no signs of her being deflated by the words of her transgressors. It’s obvious that her self-esteem has remained unharmed by such vehement criticism.
With all that behind her, she bounds on stage smiling widely, looking contented and happy whilst resplendent in an odd black and pink combo which Vivian Westwood would baulk at, completed by what can only be described as a ‘kitty-eared’ hat upon her head.
But it’s not what she’s wearing on her body that’s the focus here, it’s the smile she’s wearing on her face which is most alluring. 1) Because it’s good to see her smiling after all the negativity and conjecture she’s been faced with this week, and 2) because behind that smile lies a beast. And in the belly of that beast froths angst – the type of angst that Courtney Love used to create Hole’s best moments, or the type which Riot grrrl bands like Sleater Kinney and Bikini Kill channelled so well.
But also just peeking out behind that smile is the slight sense of uncertainty as to how her fans will react to her brazen dalliance with her musical DNA.
“I’m going to play a lot of stuff from my new record”, she announces coyly, almost as a warning. Indeed, only a handful of old songs are performed, including Kiss That Grrrl, Do-Wah-Doo and Foundations, the latter’s bitter content juxtaposing itself with great accuracy with the angry swell of guitars which now accompany it. Every song – old and new – is given a scuzzy battering. The polished edges of the old tracks have been roughed, their cuteness crushed. There are no tinkling pianos, no mockney playfulness. Kate and her all-female band tear them open, deconstruct them and leave them in pieces to rot. They’re basically given the Riot Grrrl treatment, and they sound better for it, while the new tracks are a million miles away from the likes of Pumpkin Soup or Mouthwash. They too are rough-edged behemoths capable of filling a Hole-shaped hole.
Kate snarls, squeals, yelps and wields her guitar emphatically. But between each track, there’s no punk-rock attitude; no ‘The big I am’ which is so often typical of anyone who makes angry music of this sort. She’s warm, funny and articulate. She’s having fun, and her audience can sense this and are enjoying this new ride she’s built for them.
Under-Estimate The Girl arrives just before the encore. Its bass trembles as Kate mournfully repeats the lines ‘Everybody play, play it so safe, no one wanna mess, mess with the rules’, before the whole thing explodes into a cacophony of noise and wild howling, as Kate seemingly becomes possessed by a demonic fiend. Predictably, despite the hullaballoo that has surrounded it, it’s given a rousing ovation. And there’s that smile again…
Career suicide? Nonsense, this is just the start of a new chapter. A brave one admittedly, but fortune, so they say, favours the brave.