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Wednesday, December 13

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Feature Thu Oct 12 2006

Little Devil on the Shoulder Wins this Round: Lily Allen's Alright, Still

In the past I've turned to the British shores for that good ol' cheeky sensibility and lyrical cunning that only the Brits can supply. It's a musical world buoyant on sarcastic and bratty comments and salted by a perfectly poised Brit-princess and greasy Cockney-laden vocals that are intelligible to the ears — only if you listen really hard. Though the last big wave of fun got knocked out by boy bands and then emo kids that were too young to hail Morrissey, the fact that British posture is going ghetto-fab is a pleasant turn. Lucky for us, they've got a gal from the Grime movement to help lead the way to our ears: Lily Allen, and her debut album Alright, Still.

LilyAllen album cover.jpg

Lily Allen was born in 1985, the daughter of British actor and comedian Keith Allen, who is also known from the band Fat Les (with Damien Hirst and Blur bassist Alex James). It's no surprise then, that Allen, on her newest record, decided to take her life experiences and stitch them into little pockets of lost love, revenge, bureaucracy and crack whores, all mixed in with a confection of sweet pop that makes you want to bust out the rum and make yourself a mojito. Her sound is a mixture of reggae (complete with Rasta-influences and drums), 1960s harmonies and a bit-o-street-cred lent by her surprising cockney-like accent (think a female voice from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels).

Allen has jumped on the Grime bandwagon over in the UK, a music genre created from the combination of MCs, sped-up breakbeats and looped-in catchy hooks. It's something like hip-hop on speed, served on a bed of "garage", the UK's version of house music.

Grime has given the music scene such booming artists as The Streets, Obie Trice, Dizzee Rascal, and Lady Sovereign, though Allen is not to be confused with her. Along with Mike Spinner from The Streets, Sovereign's image is working class; she's from a UK housing project and is not shy about her rough lifestyle. Along with most Grime artists comes a "Chav" way of living — working class but on the dole. Chav's style reminds me of Sporty Spice, that rambunctious member of the former Spice Girls (though part of me, cannot believe I just wrote that), where as Allen paints a picture that's more Posh.

Lily Allen Promo Image.JPG

Somehow in all of Allen's exclusive private school education, she ended up with what has been referred to as a "Mockney" accent, a cockney accent that was learned, not inherited by her upbringing. This little dialect change brought her wealthy status down a notch and has allowed her to hob-knob with local MCs, djs and producers. At age 15 Allen was a self-proclaimed drug dealer and living in Ibiza. She must've let some of those sultry sounds sink in, because this record is filled with steel-drums. Alright, Still uses a combination of spiced vocals set over ska influences and creates an instant stuck-in-your-head-syndrome that could last all afternoon if you don't put something else on quickly. Allen is not an MC, though she uses a combination of spoken word and carrying a tune to tell her stories. Her tales range from the track "Friday Night," a song all about a club-induced girl fight, the boy-girl battles that happen at the bars called "Knock Em Out", "Everything's Just Wonderful", a song about being kept down by the man and the sad lost love ballad "Littlest Thing" that was produced with Mark Ronson.

Allen, though good at collaboration, has not come up with anything too terribly inventive for this record. It's something in the tradition of 60s or 80s pop, it's been done, but is always welcomed. She sings bubble-gum. It's a pleasant wakeup when initially chewed, but after awhile you just spit it out. However, this album would almost be too saccharin if it wasn't for the cleverly hidden jabs and brashness of Lily's sharp-tongued lyrics. Anyone who has ever been to Britain and the UK knows one thing — the British, though proper with their tea and biscuits, are not always so proper when it comes to their words. Slang is as common whether you are a bratty teenager or a burgeoning CEO, and slipping in a slight underhand comment masked with sincerity is an English art form. She reminds me of that girl who everyone knows is sickening sweet to your face but stabs you in the back the moment you walk away. Though this record never gets too deep, I'm not so sure how introspective I was either at the fresh age of 21!

LilyAllen1.jpg

Lily Allen has been hailed as the myspace queen of pop, as she gained all her-pre-release buzz from the site, though I first heard her intentionally leaked by Ronson himself, dj-ing on East Village Radio in Manhattan. Allen, though pushed by her UK record label Regal/Parlaphone to release her first tracks polished and heavily-produced, opted rather to upload them herself from a mix-tape onto the Rupert Murdoch owned site, and what a good choice she made. The information-virus that is Myspace, quickly spread her songs around the internet, and before Regal's publicity department could sneeze, Allen had already created her own fanbase. This sealed the deal and her record release date was pushed up just to appease the fans. The US fans took hold, and through some influence on Ronson's part, Allen has also been signed in the US and is looking to conquer these shores as well.

Alright, Still was released on Regal/Parlaphone, July 17th 2006 in the UK and Europe and will be available in the US in February 2007. Perhaps her sass will brighten up that chilly month.

Allen will be playing at the Double Door Monday with Mark Ronson and Domino(also produced by Ronson) and Aaron Lacrate doors open at 8pm and the show starts at 9pm, tickets are $12.

-Catherine Rigod

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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