PAGAN with Crave Death, Blind Girls & Masochist. Crowbar, Brisbane Saturday 18 August, 2018 At 8pm on a Saturday …
Despite being written back-to-back with two other albums (her lowkey Lotta Sea Lice project with Kurt Vile and Jen Cloher’s self-titled 2017 offering), the new solo opus from Courtney Barnett is the furthest possible thing from an afterthought. In fact, it’s her most calculated and meticulous body of work to date, upping the virtuosity and grandiose production she introduced to us on her breakout 2015 debut, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (henceforth Sometimes).
Such fastidiousness is hinged on rawness, though—the summery colours and instant, inescapable bounciness that made Sometimes such a romp is subbed instead with dark, searing and often polarising honesty via quick-witted lyrical quips and crunchy, reverb-slicked electric guitars. Thus makes it a little less easy to chew than her previous pop-slanted efforts, but once you have a chance to really soak in its dexterity and appreciate the richness of the flavours at play, Tell Me How You Really Feel becomes immensely more impactful.
Once the record is worn in, it shows a battered interior. Three years of restless touring and brashly navigating the mainstream has left Barnett a shell of the musician she was at the cusp of Sometimes. Her jaggedness punches through immediately on Hopefulessness, the opening cut seeping with a lethargy as bleak as it is pissed off, sultry guitars adding a bloodied sharpness to the opening lyric, “No-one’s born to hate, we learn it somewhere along the way.” Its black-and-blue tinge is wiped away quickly, though—at least from a musical standpoint—with a double shot of ardour in City Looks Pretty and Charity, the latter of which shines with one of the album’s most earwormish choruses.
Tell Me How You Really Feel is a true musical journey, every rumbling strum and dizzying melody bounding from depression to bliss and every nuanced affliction inbetween.
On the lyrical side, Barnett is still notably dejected—she wades through a lonely slump and jabs herself with bitter sarcasm—but there’s an audible sense that she’s trying to better her mental strength. That’s amplified tenfold with the downright cataclysmic middle tracks Nameless, Faceless and I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch: the two most unforgivingly venomous numbers Barnett has ever strewn, and a stark contrast to the whimsical melancholy that Need A Little Time swims in before them. Both tracks see Barnett slipping off the robe and donning a pair of studded boxing gloves, laying punch after punch in the face of misogyny.
With Dan Luscombe of The Drones standing strong behind the axe alongside the usual suspects of the CB3, guitars are layered and pronounced in unexpected, yet always satisfying ways. Atmospheric flourishes dot the record at every turn as well, making it an easy fit for that pair of overly expensive headphones you’ve got collecting dust on the bookshelf. The record ends in the same vein as Sometimes with a slow and sludgy ballad, but where Boxing Day Blues is pure heart-shattering desolation, the multifaceted Sunday Roast is a much brighter and more personable affair. Stripping down the turmoil painted on its ten predecessors, it’s a lackadaisical ode to keeping your chin up; a slow-burner that culminates in a heartwarming crescendo we can only really describe as “adorable”.
And so Tell Me How You Really Feel is a true musical journey, every rumbling strum and dizzying melody bounding from depression to bliss and every nuanced affliction inbetween. It’s authentic, slathered in vibes and, above all, exciting–everything a record needs to justify its place in the lead for Album Of The Year.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Need A Little Time, Sunday Roast, Charity
STICK THIS NEXT TO: The Strokes, Camp Cope, Paul Kelly
Courtney Barnett is heading on tour this August with the East Brunswick All Girls Choir. Tickets are on sale now!
Friday August 17th – Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide
Saturday August 18th – Metropolis, Fremantle
Wednesday August 22nd – The Tivoli, Brisbane
Thursday August 23rd – Opera House, Sydney (* – East Brunswick All Girls Choir not appearing)
Saturday August 25th – Opera House, Sydney (* – East Brunswick All Girls Choir not appearing)
Wednesday August 29th – Powerstation, Auckland
Thursday August 30th – Opera House, Wellington
Saturday September 1st – Festival Hall, Melbourne