The secret of a great comeback is to make it seem as if you have never been away.
Having announced her ‘retirement’ when she retreated to the countryside to start a family five years ago, Lily Allen affects to be nervous of her reception on her return. The opening, title track to this third album finds her trademark sing-song trill confessing: “I’m kinda scared… wish me luck.”
Any apprehension is entirely unnecessary. Sheezus is another Allen tour de force, a sparkling pop concoction that marries candid confessionals, barbed social commentary and elegantly airy electro-pop with seemingly effortless élan.
As ever, Allen has lots to say, and gets her message across with provocative and persuasive charm. You know the singles: Hard Out Here skewers the music industry’s in-built sexism, while Air Balloon is the kind of beguiling bubblegum pop that she can toss off in her sleep.
Allen may be incorrigibly flippant but that doesn’t mean that her lyrical concerns are not heartfelt. URL Badman is a sharp-witted satire on keyboard warriors and internet trolls, while Silver Spoon has fun with her media image as a privileged spoilt little rich girl: “I’m getting hungry, can you fetch my butler?”
Amidst the pop alchemy, Allen albums always function as in-depth running commentaries on her own life, and Life For Me finds her surfing social media and feeling oddly nostalgic for her old dissolute, hard-partying days. By contrast, on As Long As I Got You and the sexually charged L8 CMMR she is lauding her new life of motherhood and domestic bliss.
It works because it all unfolds over razor-sharp yet gossamer-life pop tunes, and choruses that float and sting. Did Lily Allen really go away at all?