Lily Allen
My First Mixtape

beating Dave to the punch, here’s the Top Eight Reasons Why MySpace Is a Distinctly Troubling Phenomenon:

08. It’s possibly, if not probably, a far-reaching right-wing conspiracy to cultivate potential young Republicans.

07. It’s a veritable breeding ground for awful punk/hardcore/emo groups fronted by 15 year-old boys who wear women’s jeans.

06. As if the Interweb-as-we-know-it wasn’t insular enough…

05. It’s somehow lamer than Friendster.

04. Hideous wallpaper.

03. It completely defeats the purpose of high school reunions. (Now, it will come as no surprise/vague vindication to discover that the drill team captain who got pregnant the summer after senior year never lost that baby weight, and has since developed a considerable fondness for all things Hostess.)

02. No one (with the possible exception of Tara Reid) has 1132 “friends.”

01. Even though I could’ve easily extended this list to ten entries, you know why I stopped at eight.

That said, here’s one very persuasive argument in favor of MySpace: Lily Allen.

I’m still not sold, mind you, but like the best supposedly derivative, inevitably hyped-to-death blog darlings of the Oughts, she at least makes me rethink the game plan. I’ll spare you the obligatory laundry list of peers, potential influences, and RIYL’s, and I won’t bother trying to prognosticate about how many units she’ll move once her debut proper hits actual, physical retail record shelves in July. What I can, and will, do is wholeheartedly recommend Allen’s much-buzzed 50-minute mixtape, available now and remarkably easy to track down.

In fact, regardless of the degree to which her upcoming long-player delivers, I can’t think of a recording that’s surprised or excited me more so far this year. “LDN” is the song that everyone (by which, naturally, I mean the people with the best trade rates on is talking about, and it really is terrific. Deceptively sugary and infectious in the best sense, it’s a summer anthem on par with, say, “Crazy in Love.” It sounds familiar, like a cover-done-better, ala Leslie Feist riffing on the Bee Gees. Except that it’s not.

“Shame for You” and “Cheryl Tweedy” are better yet. The former is a chugging gem of the showtune-pop variety, on which Lily warns a hopeful suitor “don’t take me on,” a refrain that might just frighten off the nervous boys “annoyed” by (still not dropping names) (rhymes with) Kelly Pickeye. The latter is something else entirely, and reasonably unique within pop music: A song where, rather than blaming a cheating/lying/unambitious ex, the singer laments not being a better relationship partner herself. In spite of the self-deprecating sentiment (“I wish my life was a little less seedy / Why am I always so greedy?), it’s ultimately seductive. I believe her life is “boring” like I believe Barry Bonds genuinely thought he was rubbing himself down with flaxseed oil, but effort counts and, at this rate, Lily might well beat Barry to 756.

No less intriguing is the inspired grab bag of classics and curiosities sharing megabytes with Allen’s would-be hits. Dizzee? Well, yeah. ODB? Sure. But CCR? Trust me, kids, it works. After hitting repeat for the sixth or seventh time, I began wondering what exactly I was so drawn to here—aside from the fact that I’m clearly a sucker for witty, ostensibly “urban” hipster chicks. It’s not her voice (though the accent is plenty cute), her delivery (nice, too, if not especially indelible), or even her lyrics (though the one about everyone’s favorite Girl Aloud is pretty clever)—it’s her impulses.

You know how you can sort of feel like you know someone after spending a couple dozen sleepless nights chatting on your instant messaging service of choice? Same concept here, except that Lily manages it in under an hour. Stick-in-the-mud cynics can penalize her for willful eclecticism, but I find the idea of Allen sandwiching her own material between bluegrass yodeling and dreamy French torch ballads entirely endearing. This feels refreshingly less like a go-for-broke hype generator than a pleasant, casual meet-and-greet.

I suspect this latest poptimist heroine is one of those enviably blessed gals who “looks good in anything,” not least of which an old t-shirt and some faded jeans, so why dress to impress? On My First Mixtape, Lily (like “silly with an ‘L’”) kills with, of all things, comfort and good instincts. She doesn’t need everything short of the kitchen sink to do the trick: just John Fogerty and a MySpace page.

Reviewed by: Josh Timmermann
Reviewed on: 2006-05-18
Comments (7)

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