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School was out last Friday for a late-summer salute to Kate Nash, the 20-year-old Londoner who is the current darling of the MySpace gang. A third of the crowd must have got off homework to see her. Even before their heroine appeared, they gave this handsomely restored, art deco ballroom the giddy atmosphere of a leavers’ disco – the gym-hall jabber of girls’ voices rising as one for the chorus of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” when it came over the PA.
Besides making me feel professorially ancient, it was a reminder that the eternal present of the internet means puffball-skirted 1980s pop can sound as fresh as to Nash’s generation as “Mouthwash”, her next single. Jaunty and confessional, the track is as childishly compelling as blowing bubblegum. Held back until the finale, and paired with “Foundations”, which took Nash to No 2 in the UK singles chart, its nursery-rhymey hook, “Singing oh-oh on a Friday night”, became a collective chant.
Nash’s music is a disarming dolly-mixture of show-tunefulness and post-punk skiffle salted with tinny techno. Her melodies are irresistible, in small doses, but – to paraphrase “Foundations” – the voice that “some find annoying” does seem a bit of an act. I don’t know how pukka Nash’s suburban origins were, but her elocution lessons must have been with Bianca from EastEnders. Her Lily Allen-like, cockney vowels extended to a plucky cover of the American indie band Cold War Kids (“Hang me aaht to dry-ayyye,” she sang).
The accent slipped when Nash sought extra emotion. It had a sparrow-ish purity on “Birds” and “We Get On”, but the microphone tended to swallow her songs’ tongue-twisting, spoken-word passages. Those lyrical smarts make a virtue of ordinariness, which might explain the depth of her audience’s noisy devotion.
Switching between piano and acoustic guitar, she was crisply supported by a trio that included a violinist. Endearingly, Nash remembered a friend’s birthday and waved to old classmates, who cheered in response. In all the excitement, I almost forgot my mum wasn’t coming to collect me afterwards.
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