Friday, May 18, 2018

Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel Review

On her 2015 debut Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, Courtney Barnett inadvertently declared herself the voice of reason for a generation pulling itself away from physical interaction. Loneliness, depression, angst, all masked under self-depreciating humor rifled its way through the eleven tracks. Barnett defined the maladjusted who discovered the complicated world of social media during their disorienting adolescent dramatics better than anyone, pontificating the festering irresolute amongst young adults. Three years have passed, one occupied by Kurt Vile's lackadaisical charm on Lotta Sea Lice, and Barnett has returned with the only noticeable change being her recently-accrued fame. Tell Me How You Really Feel further elaborates on the dissociative behavior of those, like herself, who struggle to convey feelings in an age overwrought with them.

Barnett's joyless humor presents itself with haste on opener 'Hopefulessness,' a twist of phrase that jabs the knife of indecisiveness even further. On the slow-burner, Barnett attempts a self-motivating incision; "take your broken heart, turn it into art," before contradicting herself on the ensuing verse: "Hardly a maverick, lesser than average / Your vulnerability, stronger than it seems." As evidenced by Sometimes I Sit And Think, Barnett's a master of incongruity, speaking on behalf of her deficiencies on a track, 'Hopefulessness,' that eventually blossoms into a bold and courageous Indie Rock anthem. This transition guides Tell Me in tone, as the album's first half analyzes the inadequacies of those surrounding her before the second shines a light inwards. Due to Barnett's Rock connotations, it's this first half, with its edgy pugnacity and cocksure conviction, that prevails over the low-energy second sporting Singer/Songwriter norms. On 'City Looks Pretty' - a surefire Strokes imitation - Barnett comments on ambivalent relationships due to her musical crusade, stating that "friends treat you like a stranger and strangers treat you like their best friend." With lead single 'Nameless, Faceless,' a lyrically-rich ride, Barnett criticizes belligerent internet trolls, even using her own experience ("I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and spit out words better than you," as told to her through Twitter) to mock its culture.

Tell Me's transitionary point comes at the punctual, Nirvana-like 'I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch.' Here, Barnett finds herself at a heated apex, fed up with her mild-mannered temper towards cavaliering combatants. This unexpected punch of punk is a welcomed change from Barnett's typical lethargy, and is something she's only shown previously on 'Pedestrian At Best.' It also reflects poorly on the garden variety spilling from Tell Me's final four tracks, a collection that loses the exertion of Tell Me's earlier vivacity. On 'Crippling Self Doubt And A General Lack of Self Confidence,' Barnett shifts the listeners' ear towards herself, reminding all that the brash behavior she previously presented can't come without modesty and one's own insecurities. "I don't know anything" she suggests in the chorus, further counteracting all her previous declarations. Unfortunately, her humility correlates with the music, causing deep cuts like 'Help Your Self' and 'Walkin’ On Eggshells' to suffer from boredom and listlessness. 

The sulky trudge of 'Sunday Roast,' one that ends in an upbeat psychedelic carol about a propitious relationship, steadies the ship as it rests at dock. Barnett's simple words here - "I know you're doing your best / I know you're doing just fine" - gives Tell Me How You Really Feel's title the equivocal meaning it bears. Beyond a sardonic phrase ripe for Barnett, it unveils a genuine face that craves sincerity. A plead, if you will, to a generation evading reality.

No comments:

Post a Comment