Lily Allen It's Not Me, It's You (Capitol)

"The Fear" is tits.

Forgive the crude introduction, but I'm sure Lily Allen wouldn't mind. The British songstress, who built a huge audience through MySpace and rode the fun, filthy summertime anthems of Alright, Still to breakout stardom, always says what's on her mind.

And what's on my mind is Allen's new single, "The Fear," and how damn splendid it is. I love the way the unassuming guitars and her practically whispered vocal get carried away on a shameless club beat and the glistening arpeggios of oscillating keyboards. I love how it's as spunky as her previous hits but also weathered by the three years of fortune, fame and turmoil that have intervened since Allen broke out. ("I don't know what's right and what's real anymore," she sings. "And I don't know how I'm meant to feel anymore.") There's no reason to dig deep into Allen's personal pain here, but suffice it to say she's had a rough go of it.

Unfortunately, the rest of her new LP, the smartly dubbed It's Not Me, It's You, doesn't handle that balance of brash audacity and injured vulnerability quite as perfectly as "The Fear." The record offers many moments of blissful piss and vinegar, but it's ultimately kind of a letdown.

Lily Allen It's Not Me, It's You (Capitol)

"The Fear" is tits.

Forgive the crude introduction, but I'm sure Lily Allen wouldn't mind. The British songstress, who built a huge audience through MySpace and rode the fun, filthy summertime anthems of Alright, Still to breakout stardom, always says what's on her mind.

And what's on my mind is Allen's new single, "The Fear," and how damn splendid it is. I love the way the unassuming guitars and her practically whispered vocal get carried away on a shameless club beat and the glistening arpeggios of oscillating keyboards. I love how it's as spunky as her previous hits but also weathered by the three years of fortune, fame and turmoil that have intervened since Allen broke out. ("I don't know what's right and what's real anymore," she sings. "And I don't know how I'm meant to feel anymore.") There's no reason to dig deep into Allen's personal pain here, but suffice it to say she's had a rough go of it.

Unfortunately, the rest of her new LP, the smartly dubbed It's Not Me, It's You, doesn't handle that balance of brash audacity and injured vulnerability quite as perfectly as "The Fear." The record offers many moments of blissful piss and vinegar, but it's ultimately kind of a letdown.

Allen's lyrics are still mostly sly and a little juvenile. (One chorus simply reads, "F--- you very much.") But she's tackling Big Issues this time out drugs, politics, religion and though she sounds like the same sassy lass, a lot of the fun is drained from the proceedings. (Yes, everyone does drugs, not just kids. Yes, there are some racists on the right wing. Etc., etc.) Even more personal accounts like the apologetic "Back to the Start" and the staying-in tale "Chinese" come off mundane.

Meanwhile, the production has shifted from summery sampled grooves to icy dance-pop concoctions. It's an appropriate backdrop for the subject matter, but the music gets a bit samey as the album rolls on, and by the last few tracks, Alright, Still's warm, playful atmosphere would make a righteous antidote.

It's Not Me is not exactly a sophomore slump. It's a complicated record that, as Bill Simmons might put it, brings a lot to the table while also taking a lot of things off. Were it not for Allen's magnetic personality, the record would be a drab departure. But she is just as intriguing a character as Kanye West, and for that reason even her failures are fascinating windows into her world.