In distancing herself from 2014’s poorly received Sheezus, Lily Allen’s follow-up is a disarming change of tack. The Londoner has not entirely dispensed with her patented streetwise truculence, but, true to its title, No Shame is a candid and sometimes jaded concoction that dials down the acerbic sideswipes to reflect on self-destructive behaviour, motherhood and the end of her marriage. Admirably steering clear of mawkishness, Allen even concludes No Shame in open-ended fashion, outlining the promise of a new relationship.
Musically, Allen’s template of pithy shade-throwing atop calypso-ska and electropop broadens to embrace grime and tropical flourishes. Introspective ballads unexpectedly occupy a mellow mid-section, while restrained dancehall numbers offer a link to the album’s predecessors. En route, the familiar stamp of producers including Mark Ronson and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig catches the ear.
By flipping the script and rejecting the Lily Allen brand, the 33-year-old has not only outlasted her mid-aughts peers, but issued a retort to the skeptics who had written her off. Accessible without being punchy, No Shame is admittedly hampered by a lack of obvious singles and less immediate payoff. Nevertheless, one must admire Allen’s non-mercenary insistence on making the music she wants to make. Even in the absence of bangers or her brash persona, Lily Allen remains defiant and unapologetic as ever.
Words – Killian Barry
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