Lily Allen's second album, written and recorded exclusively by her and Greg Kurstin, began its life at a tiny rented house in the Cotswolds in the autumn of 2007, where the pair had gone to work. After a week and a half they had six songs and a new sound had emerged: darker perhaps, definitely dancier, clearly more mature.
"The way we work," explains Allen, "is Greg and I will sit round a piano together and he'll play different chords and I'll stay "stop" or "start" when I like them. Then I'll sing along over the top and come up with the words.
"We decided to try and make bigger sounding, more ethereal songs, real songs. I wanted to work with one person from start to finish to make it one body of work. I wanted it to feel like it had some sort of integrity. I think the first song we did was "I Could Say". That set the tone for the whole album. I think I've grown up a bit as a person and I hope it reflects that."
Lyrically, "It's Not Me, It's You" is both a continuation of the preoccupations of "Alright, Still", as well as a stiletto-heeled leap forward. The forensic, affecting, often very funny examinations of relationships and sexual politics are still there - and joyously so - but bigger themes are also tackled: God is on this record, as is George Bush, and Allen's family are here, too. (Though not on the same songs as God and George Bush.) Plus all the triumphs and tribulations of life as a young woman in late Noughties Britain.
"I find it hard to write songs about nothing," says Allen. "I try to write things that are both relevant to my life - which is totally weird and surreal - and also universal. I think the record probably is a bit darker but not because I have a darker outlook on life. I actually feel happier right now than I did when I released "Alright, Still". When I was writing the first record I felt like I was really struggling. I wanted to be doing something and I felt no one was interested. Now I feel like people are very interested."
Those people will be interested to learn that "It's Not Me, It's You" might be the only album they'll hear in 2009 that references racism ("Fuck You"); ageism ("22"); the dark side of celebrity and consumer culture ("The Fear"); drug dependency ("Everyone's At It"); and 9/11 ("Him"); but also TV dinners ("Chinese"); premature ejaculation ("Not Fair"); the enduring rubbishness of men ("Never Gonna Happen"), as well as the fragile beauty of early romance ("Who'd Have Known").
"It's Not Me, It's You" is unmistakably Her: bracing home truths and pungent social commentary delivered in the voice of an angel. It's a potent combination. It could only be Lily Allen.
The album is preceded by the single "The Fear" on January 24.
"The Fear" Live At Bowery Ballroom, MySpace Secret Show 2/10
"F**K You" Live At Bowery Ballroom, MySpace Secret Show 2/10
North American Tour Dates
4/01 San Diego, CA - House of Blues
4/02 Los Angeles, CA - Wiltern
4/04 San Francisco, CA - Warfield
4/06 Seattle, WA - Showbox SoDo
4/08 Salt Lake City, UT - In the Venue
4/09 Denver, CO - Ogden Theatre
4/11 Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue
4/12 Chicago, IL - Vic Theatre
4/13 Detroit, MI - St. Andrew's Hall
4/15 Atlanta, GA - Variety Playhouse
4/17 Washington, DC - 9:30 Club
4/18 Philadelphia, PA - TLA
4/19 Boston, MA - House of Blues
4/20 New York, NY - Roseland Ballroom
4/22 Toronto, Ontario - Phoenix Concert Theater
Everyone's At It