By Izzy Cihak
Hello, hello. It’s Izzy Cihak… likely the most eccentric, cynical, and pretentious member of the Origivation family. Welcome to my column, “108 lbs and Condescending.” The title is derived from my mentor, Jack Murnighan, who once used the phrase to sum up yours truly… I was honored. For my first column, I will be straying from my usual persona and delve into my most saccharine self, a self rarely exposed to the outside world (although those close to me will at times claim, purely in hopes of smudging my credibility, that I am prone to use phrases like “smitten kitten” and talk to girls like they are Disney princesses). This column is dedicated to my #1 crush.
I was first aware of Kate Nash not quite three years ago. Her debut LP, Made of Bricks, had just dropped stateside. I was 23 and she was 20. I had just graduated from art school and had recently (and cautiously) ended three years of Morrissey-esque celibacy. I was put off by nearly all of the girls around me. It seemed that girls of my generation thought that the key to “empowerment” was to be found in “hooking-up” for sport. I had no interest in going home with girls I met in bars, or even the kind of girl who would go home with someone she met in a bar… and I was starting to wonder if that’s all that was left of twenty-somethings of the indie rock persuasion.
Kate wasn’t my usual type. I went for alt girls, the girls who avoided the sun like the plague, spent hundreds of hours modifying their bodies, and showed a general contempt for anything Mother Nature had provided them, the kind of girl who looks like Clara Bow after hitting up Sailor Jerry. But it wasn’t her appearance that caused me to fall for Kate… at least it’s not what caused me to fall hard. Her pouts are ineffably enticing, her vintage, kinder-hipster style is elegantly alluring, and her eyes could envelop a ship, but that’s not what pushed me over the edge. It wasn’t even the embellished cockney accent… although that didn’t hurt.
I’ve always had a thing for singer/songwriters. There’s something lovely about someone who can contribute beauty to this world that will outlive even the prettiest face or supplest skin. The beauty of Made of Bricks isn’t a conventional kind of beauty. It’s a bit juvenile, a bit crass, a bit melodramatic. Kate’s not an existentialist. She knows she’s being a brat. She knows that whether or not the guy she’s sitting with on the bus thinks she looks nice or not is probably not of much concern to the rest of the world and that whether or not she can get on with a boy with notable eyes isn’t going to impact that alignment of the stars, but for her… in that moment… it is the only thing that matters. There’s a beauty to her earnestness toward the things in life we’re supposed to regard as trivial but, in reality, weigh heaviest on our hearts. Kate has no delusions of grandeur in regards to love. There’s never a question of whether or not her heart will go on. She simply “Proceeded to get drunk and cry, and lock [herself] in the toilet, for the entire night”… yeah, that’s sounding a little more accurate.
Kate was a different breed of pop star, a kind far more appealing to me than the women I had simply heroined for their brassiness and sassiness (i.e. Liz Phair, Courtney Love, Theo Kogan, etc.). These women essentially made names for themselves by acting like their phallus-wielding forefathers but, as I said before, I’m not into sport-fucking or those who sport-fuck. Kate offered promise that there were still girls out there who had not succumbed to such tragedy. In fact, the sparks recounted on her debut seemed to be induced by something as seemingly simple as a touch or a kiss or even a glance. Remember a time when that was enough to send you to Wonderland? At what point does that stop working for the average person? The fact that it ever does is one of the greatest tragedies of all.
Kate wasn’t just the most charming girl I’d encountered since I read Snow White as a child, she also wrote brilliant pop songs. They’re poignant, yet charming … like fairy tales in their own right. In “We Get On,” our heroine has her heart shattered by a boy she has been seeing in her mind alone; a bit like Belle & Sebastian’s “Funny Little Frog,” except lacking in poetics. “Mariella” is the story of a young girl battling all things normative; a bit like B&S’s “Expectations,” except (see above). “Skeleton Song” tells of Kate’s conflict between herself and her own eccentricities (don’t worry, it’s a happy ending); I’ll let you decide which B&S number of which this is most reminiscent. While Kate’s musical tales are capable of enchanting people of all ages, they become exponentially more potent with every scraped knee and broken heart.
After nearly two years Ms. Nash has returned to the states. This past April her Bernard-Butler-produced sophomore effort, My Best Friend Is You, dropped. While not quite as delightful as her debut, it is proving to be the year’s best album thus far. It displays a more mature Kate (although, at times, only slightly). She still has a handful of diatribes against girls that make her insecure (for whatever reason), but her more impressive influences are starting to shine through. On the simplistically erratic “I Just Love You More” Kate manages Robert Smith howls. For “Don’t You Want To Share The Guilt?” she kicks up the twee and even includes a rant that sounds straight off of Tigermilk. “I’ve Got A Secret” even evokes the proto-grrrl aesthetic of The Slits.
… so yes, I am indeed smitten; I have a crush. I’m not sure exactly what “a crush” means at 25. I think it’s someone who, at a time in your life when you’ve realized that those childhood tales are just a hoax, can make you believe again, even if just for one moment. I am well aware that this fair maiden has spent the past three years happily alongside The Cribs’ Ryan Jarman and I have no desire for that (which I would like to imagine is a) fairy tale to end… although I do think it’s unfair that one person gets to hold hands with Kate Nash and be in a band with Johnny Marr.