From Melbourne Australia we are gifted the wonderful Courtney Barnett. Strangely her debut album appears to be Number One in Amazon's "grunge" chart. To say this does a disservice is the same as saying the last day of the Six Nations was dull. Barnett's music is much more in the tradition of Stephen Malkmus than Eddie Vedder. It is populated with a dry wit that can take some of everyday life's most mundane situations and turn them into brilliant observational pop. The clues were there in her previous EPs not least the echoes of Syd Barrett in "Avant Gardener", undoubtedly the greatest pop song ever written about a anaphylactic shock.
"Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit." is a blast of fresh air and melodic sunshine from a far off continent. Barnett's Australian accent is not disguised and her songs are full of smart observational lines and quirky titles. She has melodies to spare and enough savvy to tip a wink to commercialism. Thus the opener "Elevator Operator" has fine pop sensibility amongst its angular lines where Barnett comes across like an Antipodeon Justine Frischmann. It is brilliant but blown out of the water by the rocking single "Pedestrian at best" where Barnett's lyrics triumph. In the chorus she exclaims "Put me on a pedestal and I'll only disappoint you/Tell me I'm exceptional, I promise to exploit you/Give me all your money, and I'll make some origami, honey/I think you're a joke, but I don't find you very funny". It is one of those must hear songs that only come along once in a while. In a perfect world it would top the charts. Amazingly the album does not sag after this highpoint. The sardonic and slowly drifting seven minutes of "Small Poppies" never loses interest although the economy of the joyous "Aqua Profunda!" proves that less is more. Equally "Debbie Downer" tucked away at the end of the album is all swirling organs and a gorgeous pop melody which Best Coast must have missed along the way. Any song with the title "Dead fox" is going to arouse curiousity. It also provides Barnett with a chance to come over as a female Lou Reed and again record another first in penning the best song ever recorded about roadkill. Her preoccupations are undoubtedly Australian but the observations are universal.
This is a swaggering, confident and often very funny debut album from a performer destined to be embraced by those with a ear for a "sharp tune". This applies whether she is echoing an artist like P J Harvey on songs like "Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go to the Party" or doing 'serious" with the existential roar of "Kim's Caravan" providing a guitar squall that fellow natives The Drones would be proud of. Courtney Barnett has arrived and produced an exhilarating debut album. The one liners consistently hit the bulls eye. In "Depreston" she tours a "California bungalow in a cul-de-sac." and offers the advice that "If you've got a spare half a million/You could knock it down/and start rebuilding". Overall this wonderful debut is full of self effacing reflection, pinpoint irony and songs to ensure that the download button has a busy evening. In short the ultimate slacker turns into the "Wizard of Oz".
Review by Red on Black