Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Often accused of slackerdom, there’s more of a post-punk ethos to Courtney Barnett’s new album. Forget Mac DeMarco. Think Ian Dury and the Blockheads, (early) Elvis Costello, (even earlier) Joe Jackson. The songs are played furiously, delivered in a genuine local accent, and the lyrics reference real-life places. This is music for the masses. This is a breath of fresh air. This is Courtney Barnett. And this record is a hoot. We’re introduced to “Oliver Paul, twenty years old, Thick head of hair, worries he’s going bald”. Then there’s Jen who “insists that we buy organic vegetables, And I must admit that I was a little skeptical at first, A little pesticide can’t hurt”. And here’s our protagonist in the swimming pool, holding her breath, trying to impress the boy in the next lane. “Felt my muscles burn, I took a tumble turn, For the worse, it’s a curse, My lack of athleticism, sunk like a stone, Like a first owner’s home loan”. If this is post-punk, then it isn’t characterised by the po-faced seriousness of some artists of that era. This is Jilted John for the mid-2010s. But it’s not all eat-on-the-run, soy linseed Vegemite sandwiches. There’s a moment of melancholy on ‘Depreston’, as would-be house-buyers go to view a deceased owner’s bungalow. There’s a touch of anger on ‘Small Poppies’ when we’re told “I dreamed I stabbed you with a coat hanger wire”. There’s also an above average number of references to death. And where’s the fun in that? In fact, what’s great about the new Courtney Barnett album is the refusal to be pigeon-holed as some sort of novelty artist. She may have a wonderful turn of phrase, but it’s not all clever couplets and pithy put-downs. There are some serious themes on this album. Themes worth sitting down and thinking about. In the end, if Courtney Barnett does have a post-punk ethos, then perhaps she most closely resembles The Boomtown Rats. There was a band whose first album just tumbled out of the speakers, who sounded like they were having great fun, who could wordplay with the best of them, and one of whose members went on to much more serious things. Who knows? Maybe one day it’ll be Courtney Barnett’s turn to save the world.