Courtney Barnett Faces Doubts as well as Doubters on ‘Tell Me How You truly Feel’
Ms. Barnett’s brand-new songs sound like conversations she’s having with herself, her intimates as well as, in one song (the Pretenders-tinged “Nameless, Faceless”), the anonymous internet trolls who “Sit alone at home inside the darkness/With all the pent-up rage which you harness.” As guitars surge in its chorus she wonders, not idly, if verbal abuse could become actual assault, paraphrasing Margaret Atwood: “Men are scared which women will laugh at them,” she sings. “Women are scared which men will kill them.”
“Tell Me How You truly Feel” will be in many ways, an anthology of contention: lovers’ quarrels, negotiations with associates as well as friends, as well as arguments which are as much with herself as with others. “I get most self-defensive when I know I’m wrong,” she admits in a raw-voiced, feedback-laced stomp called “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch”; the title sounds defiant, nevertheless inside the song the idea’s followed by an unexpected attribution, “I hear you mutter under your breath.”
Even in conflict, Ms. Barnett stays levelheaded; she can’t help seeing multiple sides of every situation. In “Need a Little Time,” she tries to sort out a tense relationship with apologies, interventions as well as eventually withdrawal: “I need a little time out/coming from me, me, me, me as well as you.” Amid the fuzz-toned tunefulness of “Charity,” she tries to cope with someone’s mood swings by offering sympathy (“You don’t have to pretend you’re not scared/everyone else will be just as terrified as you”), placation as well as cheerleading (“Everything’s amazing!”), even as she starts feeling “so subservient I make myself sick.” as well as in “Walkin’ on Eggshells,” which harks back to the Neil Young of “Harvest,” she realizes “I don’t wanna hurt your feelings/So I say nothing.” nevertheless then she urges, “Say what you mean to say.”
All those ambivalences govern the music, too. Ms. Barnett sticks to the indie-rock basics of guitars, bass as well as drums, which has a keyboard at This particular point as well as then, as well as the idea’s all the palette she needs. She plays raucous, untamed lead guitar in “Charity” as well as “Help Your Self”; in “City Looks Pretty,” a song about post-tour letdown, she as well as the guitarist Dan Luscombe stack up frantic, droning strummed guitars which telegraph both nervous energy as well as homebound stasis.
The album ends with “Sunday Roast,” a tentative offer of reconciliation after all the friction of the previous songs: “Keep on keepin’ on, y’know you’re not alone/as well as I know all your stories nevertheless I’ll listen to them again.” Reverb envelops a steady-state drumbeat as well as a circular guitar picking pattern; there are ripples of tension nevertheless the outcome will be soothing.