sat 20/07/2024

Album: Charli XCX - Brat | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Charli XCX - Brat

Album: Charli XCX - Brat

One of Britain's most compelling pop stars fires out an intriguingly personal curveball

Yes, the cheap blurriness is entirely on purpose

Charli XCX has been making scrambled eggs of pop for a decade. She’s written songs for/with artists including, but far from limited to, Lady Gaga, Iggy Azalea, Giorgio Moroder, Selina Gomez, BTS, David Guetta, Ty Dolla $ign, Blondie, Gwen Stefani, Raye, BTS, Camila Cabello, Benga, Caroline Polachek, Haim, and James Blunt. And then there’s her own albums. Six of them, including this one. But she’s not yet a full star. At least that’s what she reckons.

And that’s what her enjoyably abrasive new album is about.

The aforementioned abrasiveness is sonic. XCX’s lyrics are thoughtful, a navigation of where she is right now, meta and personal. Where her last album, Crash, was deliberately polished pop, this one’s more akin to last year’s Gag Order by Kesha, high-end bedroom synth pop with gnarl, doubt and raw personality (another apt comparison would be Let’s Eat Grandma).

All but four of these 15 tracks are under three minutes. The way Charli XCX presents herself is self-aware, confessional, yet scathing and human, a TikTok Lily Allen. On “Sympathy is a Knife” she distrusts her newfound popularity (“George says I’m just paranoid”, she sings, referring to her boyfriend, George Daniel of The 1975). On “I Might say Something Stupid” she’s “famous but not quite”. On “Rewind”, with it’s caustic vinyl back-skip noises, she wishes she could time travel back to when she “wasn’t insecure”. On “Girl, So Confusing” she seems bemused by how women are supposed to always be supportive of each other, however far apart they are in every way. Her attitude is shrewd and intelligent, playfully jaded.

The weaker cuts are straightforward clubby donkers but there are also chewy aces on board, such as “I Think About it all the Time”, pondering parenthood (her new parent friends now “both know these things that I don’t”); “Everything is Romantic” is a crunchy stringed-up hyperpop number analogous to The Jam’s “That’s Entertainment”; then there’s the excellent “Mean Girls”, a lyrically observation triumph about judging nightworld women you don’t really know, quite probably about judging Charli XCX.

There’s no song as good as “Yuck” from the last album but a few fly near and the palette of sounds she uses is more exciting, techno-tinted, deliberately challenging, the closing “365” mutating into a gritty acid banger. With Brat Charli XCX maintains her position as a uniquely fascinating pop star (whether she thinks she’s one or not!).

Below: Watch the video for "360" by Charli XCX, featuring appearances by Chloë Sevigny, Julia Fox, and others of a similar ilk

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