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When Kate Nash announced the arrival of her latest song 'Underestimate The Girl' this time last week, the whole of cyberworld seemingly felt the need to voice an opinion, DiS included. Gone was the girl next door image synonymous with first record Made Of Bricks and its saccharine piano orchestrated love ditties. Gone too was the girl-group pop sheen of follow-up My Best Friend Is You. In their place was the new Kate Nash, reborn as a Riot Grrrl circa 1992, hair by Donita Sparks, clothes by thrift and vocal style previously ordained by Kat Bjelland. While not entirely a surprise departure; after all, she's regularly cited the Riot Grrrl, grunge and C86 movements as being highly inspirational to her becoming an artist in the first place; those influences weren't exactly obvious when listening to her previous output.
Currently in the infant stages of a two-week nationwide tour that will see her play a selection of intimately sized venues while roadtesting new material from her forthcoming third album, its fair to say the whole experience represents something of a huge gamble for an artist heavily tipped - not so long ago, really - to conquer the mainstream. Indeed, with no new Adele record in the pipeline anytime soon, it would have been far easier for Nash to have made a radio (Two) friendly unit shifter... so credit where credit's due for at least sticking to her guns and maintaining her integrity. Even if one can imagine numerous MD and A&R types at Fiction Records collectively pulling their hairs out at the results.
With the Bodega unsurprisingly packed to capacity - her last headline show in Nottingham being at Rock City which holds over 1500 more - its a tight squeeze to get through the doors, never mind to actually see anything. Coming on to a soundtrack of No Doubt's 'I'm Just A Girl', The Cardigans 'Lovefool' and a perhaps fairly obligatory 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' anyone expecting a pre-gig barrage of Huggy Bear, Bikini Kill and Nation Of Ulysses was more than a little disappointed. Not that we're here to listen to Kate Nash's record collection/ipod playlist.
Now with a brand new, all-girl band in tow, the contrast to her former is self apparent from the outset. Diving straught in with new songs 'All Talk' and 'Death Proof', both bratty if slightly underwhelming, they suggest 'Under-Estimate The Girl' was anything but a one-off. Indeed, of the twenty-one songs she plays tonight, only four (including 'Under-Estimate...') have been previously released, while drastically reworked, shortened versions of 'Doo Wah Do' and 'Foundations' in particular suggest she's trying to rewrite her past in the process.
Noticing the increasingly restless Nottingham crowd, no doubt frustrated at the lack of recognisable material on offer this evening, Nash applauds the audience. Then, she introduces one song - that is more than a little indebted to The Ramones - as being about "friends who are dicks" while another newie is announced as 'You're So Cool, I'm So Freaky', which is performed as a solo acapella number while the three girls in her band link arms, watching intently from the back of the stage.
At times audacious, others shoulder shruggingly confusing, its probably too early to pronounce Kate Nash as having committed career suicide just yet. However, one would be hard pressed to imagine her old fanbase returning in a hurry, while those suspicious of her motives for such a radical change in direction don't seem entirely enamoured with the new material either. Time will tell, but first impressions are usually lasting, and on this evidence its a very mixed bag indeed.
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