The two things I tend to like in popular music can be summed up thus: (1) musical aesthetics and (2) lyrical content. (On the other hand, my attraction to classical music is solely aesthetic.) My very favourite bands, such as The Clash, are rich in both aspects, but most of the popular music I’m fond of tend to perform relatively more strongly in one aspect than the other.

Lily Allen’s record Alright, Still is among the latter, with the emphasis falling on the aesthetics. Its very best tracks combine stellar tunes, pretty harmonies, the irresistible guitar/percussive skank of ska, and little touches of instrumentation (horns, piano) that testify to Allen’s song-writing chops. I am also very partial to the juxtaposition of her rather sweet singing voice with her refreshingly down-to-earth London accent – not the posh southern ‘BBC’ accent foreigners might be more familiar with, but rather the common, man-in-the-street one complete with glottal T’s.

Not that Alright, Still is empty of lyrical content. If you interpret Allen’s songs as autobiographical, then she appears to be a relatively average twenty-something with the usual preoccupations, viz. love and its end, though with a few exceptions. What makes these entertaining is the tone: this is not a girl who minces her words (nor censors her profanities), and her attitudes are bold and her observations wryly funny. I know ‘Smile’ was the smash-hit charts-wise (and I do enjoy her blithe rejoicing in her ex’s misfortunes) but the knock-out is ‘Knock ‘Em Out’. It is rather well-acted, with Allen serving as both narrator and as shameless girl, and appropriate interjections from the hapless object of her attentions:

Cut to the pub on a lad’s night out
Man at the bar ‘cause it was his shout
Clocks this bird and she looked okay
She caught him looking and walked his way:
‘Alright darling, you gonna buy us a drink then?’
‘…Er no, but I was thinking about buying one for your friend…’

She’s got no taste, hand on his waist
Tries to pull away but her lips’ on his face
‘If you insist I’ll have a white wine spritzer!’
‘Sorry love, but you ain’t a pretty picture.’
(‘Er sorry, yeah, I’m butting out.’)

And then there are the standouts that focus on more unusual subjects. ‘LDN’ cheerfully peels the romantic epidermis from London to reveal a rather less appealing side, and acknowledges that ‘that’s city life’:

Riding through the city on my bike all day
‘Cause the filth took away my license
It doesn’t get me down and I feel okay
‘Cause the sights that I’m seeing are priceless
Everything seems to look as it should
But I wonder what goes on behind doors
A fella looking dapper, and he’s sittin’ with a slapper
Then I see it’s a pimp and his crack whore

There was a little old lady who was walking down the road
She was struggling with bags from Tesco
There were people from the city having lunch in the park
I believe that it’s called al fresco
When a kid came along to offer a hand
But before she had time to accept it
Hits her over the head, doesn’t care if she’s dead
‘Cause he’s got all her jewellery and wallet

‘Everything’s Just Wonderful’ gets a bit more personal. I can’t quite decide if she’s being bitterly sarcastic or just resigned.

Why can’t I sleep at night?
Don’t say it’s gonna be alright
I wanna be able to eat spaghetti bolognaise
And not feel bad about it for days and days and days
All the magazines they talk about weight loss
If I buy those jeans I can look like Kate Moss
I know it’s not the life that I chose
But I guess that’s the way that things go

Oh yes, I’m fine
Everything’s just wonderful
I’m having the time of my life

I doubt that Alright, Still will be one of the (few) enduring classics that I return to repeatedly. But it’s a good diversion and very enjoyable.