For her second album, Lily Allen has inched her pop sound a wee bit more toward the mainstream. While Alright, Still was dominated by indie-leaning pop that screamed "this is irony(!!!!)" by blending sweet piano-based melodies with cockney pottymouth, the new album goes for a more radio-friendly, electro-infused sound. Some fans will hate this, but frankly, I find it a rather welcome direction, since really, how long was the cutesy/dirty thing sustainable?
Not that Allen has dampered her personality in the transition. She still rails against everything and everyone who dares cross her path. Drug addicts get their comeuppance in the hard-hitting first track "Everyone's At It," the "it" of course being the "name your drug" of the moment. "The Fear" follows, which, although it may have taken awhile to win you over, is certainly imprinted in everyone's brain at this point as the year's first fabulous pop song. That chorus...backed by deep synth effects is just so perfect.
"Not Fair" reaches out to the Old West for its sonic backdrop and tells a rather cheeky story about the seemingly perfect guy who cannot...perform...adequately. Silly as it may seem, I find this song rather infectious. "22" (Never start a sentence with a number!) is good too. Like "The Fear" it features a killer chorus, amped up by layers of electronic effects, dissolving into a bit of player-piano at the end. "I Could Say" features prominent piano too, but sounds dreamier, with a dance pop beat, and a prominent synth melody. Pretty much everything up to this point is really fantastic.
"Back to the Start" opens with a barrage of hard synth beats. It's the first non-winner on this set, but not a major stumble. The chorus is a little too chaotic, with rapid-fire lyrics making a poor substitute for the winning melodies heard earlier. I'm also not too keen on the over-the-top "Never Gonna Happen." I do, however, enjoy the '70s-esque but thoroughly filthy "Fuck You." Yes, this fits in the cutesy/filthy vein I assailed earlier, but it's quite a bit of fun, so I don't mind. It's got a really great beat bubbling under the caramel-coated melody.
Things slow down at this point, but stay interesting. "Who'd Have Known" is a rather lovely ballad. It remind a bit of something you'd hear on Take That's latest disc--melodic, upbeat. "Chinese" is similarly endearing--a portrait about the simple pleasures of love, delivered, ironically, without irony.
The last two tracks are another weak point. "Him" is about god, which is typically disappointing of anything that would explore such a subject ("do you think he's ever taken smack or cocaine?...his favorite band is Credence Clearwater Revival"...sure Lily, whatever). From one father to another, "He Wasn't There" is a silly rant against an absent (male) parent.
Despite those few flaws, this is mostly a very enjoyable album from Lily Allen, which broadens her sound from her debut. Here we finally have the year's first good pop album.
Best: The Fear, Not Fair, I Could Say, Fuck You, Chinese, Everyone's At It, 22