How NOT to write about music – 18. Let’s Eat Grandma

Let's Eat Grandma

The name is a punctuation joke.

Immediately I find myself drawn towards this pair of transgressive teenagers. Their name is a punctuation joke: I don’t know why, but this one simple reveal tells me more about their potential of their music than any number of flowery lines detailing how novel and stand alone their kaleidoscopic pop is. And there sure have been plenty of flowery lines detailing how novel and unique the Norwich pair’s second album is.

“[Their] bold, tender music at once captures teenage girlhood and transcends it entirely. I can’t imagine what they’ll do next.” (Pitchfork)

“Still deliciously bratty of voice, LEG writhe from pouty indignation to rapturous fantasy as they reclaim pink and power in the most visceral four minutes of pop this year.” (The Guardian)

I wonder how many of these writers are the same age as Let’s Eat Grandma? (Yes, I do believe it to be relevant.) At least many of them are the same gender.

Unique? Novel? Really?

Within seconds of listening to the luscious ‘Hot Pink’, I’m reminded of Gothic Americana popsters, the sisters CocoRosie, with a much more immersive understanding of EDM. I am not trying to pull Let’s Eat Grandma down by making this observation (also, this is superficial, based around a certain Helium trill in the intertwined voices and love for esoteric slightly jarring sound) – just pointing out the danger of calling something like “nothing else in pop right now” (thank you Pitchfork) when a statement like that is more revealing of the writer’s own lack of immersion than the music itself. Indeed, the description Pitchfork applied to Let’s Eat Grandma’s debut album could so easily be applied to Cocorosie’s early work, “If anything, I, Gemini’s everything-at-once psychedelia spoke directly to the feeling of being a young teenager—a kaleidoscope of unknowns, as terrifying as it is cool.”

That’s not to say it’s not a great line. It is. It’s a great line, especially the phrase “a kaleidoscope of unknowns”. It makes me want to listen, for sure. (And isn’t that one of the primary functions of music criticism?) Better than the NME’s “This is a thrilling, fascinating album that continually startles: it’s a bold step forward and one that feels like a glimpse into the future” – a line which frankly could have (and probably has) been written about any one of 10, 000 other albums, from Paul McCartney’s Back To The Egg to Britney Spears’ latest to the debut from Coldplay.

Also, comparisons. So the fuck what?

I will forgive The Quietus their header of “Walton and Hollingworth’s second album is a richly chaotic collection of warped weirdo pop” but only because it is a header (notoriously difficult to get right), and skip straight to the part where the writer talks about how “‘Falling Into Me’ unpicks pop’s lining perfectly, with its broken, neon disco beat racing into a savage techno high that’s pierced by a recorder.” And everywhere, every review extant, there is the obligatory description of the 11-minute long ‘Donnie Darko’ as an “epic”. What else could it be? It is 11 minutes long.

Great song, though.

The Drowned In Sound review fails (mostly) by trying too hard to be Pitchfork, and it is difficult to get past the clanger of a misjudged opening line, I’m All Ears opens with ‘Whitewater’, a thunking great ice-bucket challenge of an instrumental that answers that age-old question: ‘what if the soundtrack to Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive had been written by Godspeed You! Black Emperor?'”

Yeah, right.

Stereogum go on and on so much about how the discussion around Let’s Eat Grandma was framed almost entirely around the phrase “but they’re kids!” it makes the reader wonder whether the writer is resentful that these “kids” have moved on. (Damn, do Stereogum need a decent editor.) Also, the comparison to Lorde (as another high profile former “kid”, presumably?) is surface-level to say the least.

Rolling Stone call Let’s Eat Grandma’s second album “a balancing act of modern bubblegum synth-pop with rangy indie-rock restlessness” but you would expect them to say that, wouldn’t you? Speaking of which, much of I’m All Ears (e.g. ‘I Will be Waiting’) is not any more musically adventurous than Wolf Alice (say) – not an insult per se (I really could not give a crap about perceived innovation), just an observation.

Man alive though, that closing line! “The future, after all, belongs to the young.” Oh my fucking God.

There is a Needle Drop review, but I can’t be arsed with that.

Two nights ago, Q Magazine awarded I’m All Ears the heady title of Album Of The Year, and good on them for that. So pleased to see the magazine stepping away from countless years of Paul Weller Lifetime Achievement Awards and Gallagher brothers covers.



How NOT to write about music – 13. Kate Nash (part two)

Yesterday Was Forever

The process. This is what we are here to talk about today. The process.

If  I was to write a review of the 2018 Kate Nash album Yesterday Was Forever – and it seems unlikely at this stage, I mean why would I? – this is what I would do. Brainstorm, take notes. Collect my scattered impressions of the music and its surrounding context into some form of list which I would then check off as I start to write the piece. Usually I do not even do this as the list forms and takes shape as I am writing… but I am trying to document the process here.

(Remember the first rule of writing? If you don’t feel like writing, write anyway.)

  • Personal. I like it. A lot. It’s chipper, it’s buoyant, it is shot through with a pleasing streak of self-loathing, She (knowingly?) references Jonathan Richman (on ‘My Little Alien’), and Orange Juice and Courtney Love (on ‘Life In Pink’), the song during which her voice has been sped up a bpm or 10, having the unnerving effect of making her sound a little Chipmunk-esque. Like all the best singers, now I think about it.
  • Observation, detail. It’s her fourth. It feels like she (quite deliberately?) is turning her back on her Award-winning, pop chart storming, past and is returning back to the fanzine cut-and-paste feel-the-joins culture that has inspired her. She is the fanzine pop queen. Kickstarter-funded (for real).
  • Note to self: find out other facts and details to help score my authority from press release/Guardian review and so forth.
  • Theme.  Erratic, but delightfully so. Veers between many different palettes, pop and otherwise, although right now the inclusion of ‘My Little Alien’ justifies everything. Lightweight, but not as an insult. She is herself, like Drew Barrymore (to quote a Bis lyric). She instinctively understands her audience because she is her own audience (list examples from ‘Today’ and perhaps one other song).
  • Special mention, to the self-descriptive panic attack outing on ‘Musical Theatre’. Her voice plaintive, calling. Challenging. Demonstrative. Fearful. These are my own observations but I just checked on Wikipedia (the first refuge of the scoundrel) and it states, “Nash openly confirmed that she has obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety and is an advocate for raising awareness for the importance of mental health. ‘Musical Theatre’ is Nash’s personal interpretation of struggling with mental health”. Good to have verification. (Sample lyric: “I can’t remember ‘A-B-C’ correctly.”)
  • Note to self. Find a source that is not Wikipedia to back up this focal point.
  • She is herself. I know I have used this line before, but this is one of the many reasons I like Kate Nash so much. She is not afraid to take chances and fall flat on her face, if need be.
  • Reception. The Guardian (see above) calls her pop music “slightly stale” but perhaps I enjoy slightly stale. Jesus. We can’t all be Father John Misty. As Drowned In Sound puts it (I will rephrase this), “whimsical, playful, experimental and wildly fun”. I would shy away from calling this honest or authentic, because I am not a great believer of either within performance, but…

And then I would grab a couple of mugs of coffee and write the review.

But, like I said earlier, who the fuck is going to be interested?