Here we go again, then, I thought — another gobbet of self-referential, breast-beating respec’ me bro sputum against a backdrop of the usual overproduced r&b pop schlock. What used to be called ‘indie’ singer-songwriters are always moaning about how utterly useless they are, taking Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ as a kind of self-flagellating worldview. Chart singer-songwriters, meanwhile, can’t stop telling everyone how absolutely bloody marvellous they are, despite being traduced, which fits right in with the extraordinary narcissism of our current youth culture, its bovine #MeToo grandstanding and exquisite sensitivities.
I don’t mind Allen, despite her irritating sub-adolescent Corbynista politics. At her best she makes light summery pop to which her agreeably affectless voice is well suited and within which the vestigial tail of Britpop can still be discerned wagging a little. Her last album was chock-full of the usual aforementioned fuck-you braggadocio and became interminable. Here it is mediated considerably by a smidgeon of introspection and, hell, honesty — a consequence, one assumes, of her marriage going tits up.
For me, Allen is at her best when underproduced, but there’s precious little chance of that these days and the treated vocal on ‘Higher’ (nice tune) makes her sound as if she’s just suffered an aneurysm. But there is some brilliant pop music here, especially on ‘Trigger Bang’, and the genuinely affecting paean to her ex, ‘Family Man’. Oh, and the lovely ‘Three’. ‘Stay here with me/ I’m only three, I’m only three, I’m only three.’ There’s no such thing as a no-fault divorce, as Lily Allen seems to understand. And fair play to her for spelling it out.