We all have a difficult relationship with our past.
Lily Allen is no exception. The only difference is, whilst most of us try to black out the discrepancies of our younger selves, Allen writes songs about them. You could call it her version of therapy.
And, really, she’s always used her craft as some form of therapy. She lamented bad relationships on her bratty debut ‘Alright, Still,’ held a cracked mirror up to fame on ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’ and got candid about both her marriage and upbringing on ‘Sheezus.’
But things have changed in the world of Lily Allen. That marriage has ended, for one. And over the past year and a half she seems to have forgone releasing new music to take up a full-time position as a professional tweeter. If there’s a burgeoning political or social crisis, ya girl’s got it covered.
It seems, though, that fighting the good fight on social media isn’t enough to satisfy Allen’s hunger. ‘Trigger Bang,’ the first single off her as-yet untitled fourth album, was first leaked just before Christmas and largely forgotten about after a rush-release.
But now we’ve ushered in the New Year it only seems appropriate that along with the diets, gym memberships and promises to quit smoking (again), Allen has returned to the popular music sphere with a song that is both candidly honest about her addictions, her party lifestyle and the hypnotic qualities of that British pastime we call ‘the sesh.’
Allen starts the song with the most brutally honest opening line to one of her songs since ‘I wanna be rich and I want lots of money.’
Quite simply, she states in a cutest, sing-along manner; ‘And it fuels my addictions, hanging out in this whirlwind.’
‘Trigger Bang’ is about addiction. The topic is openly discussed by Allen throughout the track, but the context of her words hang over the song like a dark cloud. The song’s subject matter and its production – perky, yet almost on the edge of tipping into darkness – remind me a lot of ‘The Fear,’ which crystallised by sugary synths that betrayed Allen’s darkly cynical lyrics on the nature of fame and celebrity.
Featuring grime godfather Giggs, the song chugs along thanks to that production courtesy of Rae Morris collaborator Fryars, that begins with a perky piano line, then drops down into a singular drum beat as the backing track drops down as Allen looks the listener squarely in the eye and admits;
‘That’s why I can’t hang with the cool gang,’ she shrugs. ‘Everyone’s a trigger.’
Allen both laments and celebrates her hedonistic past on this song. She is, pardon the pun, still clearly triggered by the similar antics of the so-called ‘cool gang,’ which must transport her back in time to circa-2007 when Allen was herself at the centre of the cool gang and made all of the bad decisions she details in the track.
‘Anything went I was famous,’ Allen deadpans in my favourite line of the song. ‘I would wake up next to strangers, everyone knows what cocaine does.’
Part of me expected the ‘Trigger Bang’ video to be a more polite, mature rendering of the ‘We Can’t Stop’ video, but as the visual dropped this morning, I was pleasantly surprised.
Given as this is Allen’s story, her past and her big comeback to boot, I expected her to be front and centre in the music video. She isn’t. She only appears three quarters of the way through, and then she only grabs a glass of wine, sings into the camera and bit and then buggers off with Giggs.
The majority of the video is a hedonistic throwback to all the shit I’m sure we all sued to get up to as teenagers. And, there’s some cute little visual throwbacks to the music of Allen’s past too.
Most of the video centres on a young girl that we can safely assume is Allen herself. She wears a dress and trainers, Allen’s visual calling card when she first debuted on the scene, her bangs are a direct throwback to the ‘Fear’ video, and we even see her checking herself out in the bathroom mirror, which I’m taking as a shoutout to the vastly underrated ’22’ video (what a song).
There’s no guarantee that ‘Trigger Bang’ will be a hit. Despite being marginally amazing, ‘Sheezus’ seemed to leave a sour taste in most people’s mouths and if we’re being honest here, it’s not 2008 anymore. Lily Allen hasn’t got the power she once had, even though her words have lost none of their potency and her eye – whether aimed squarely at herself or society at large – is as focused as ever.
But what we do have is a tune that firmly asserts that Lily Allen is back. She’s not better than ever, but she’s managed, despite that John Lewis advert, to become remarkably consistent and reliable.
And, really, it’s unfair to expect anything else. We all have a difficult relationship with our past, but I couldn’t make a banger out of mine, could you?
Words by George Griffiths