Courtney Barnett’s “Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit”: Music review

Courtney Barnett’s made quite a splash with “Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit” and I can see why. It brings you back for repeated listens and appeals to fans of a variety of musical eras. I can hear a sort of languid Mazzy Star feel to some of the songs, but there’s also a taste of a bouncy Blur – check out “Elevator operator,” “Aqua profunda!” and “Dead Fox” and you might hear what I mean about the britpop elements.
The band is seamlessly fashioned for Courtney, interpreting her perfectly. The guitar is crisp and immensely pleasing, with just the right touch of distortion that doesn’t overly muddy the sweet texture of the guitar. The chorus line on “Dead Fox” even pushes things into an early Cure territory – compare with “Boys don’t cry.”
There’s an airy weightless feel to many of the songs, while others grunge down into a Nirvana influence. “Small poppies” brings in a tasteful minimalist bluesy lead guitar, with a fabulous tone that reminds me of a “Red House” outtake or the instrumental “Born under a bad sign” on Hendrix’s posthumous “Blues” collection.
Something in the lyrical delivery, in the clever rhyming and word games, is definitely of the playful early Dylan variety, around the time of “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”
There’s even a certain Sheryl Crow feel to some of this, a-la “All I wanna do,” which is appropriate because there’s a definite overlap with the feeling of atrophied sloth that Crow captures in that song. In fact Courtney’s lyrics are rife with a barely roused feeling of indifference, of indecisiveness or apathy about taking a stand on anything serious in life, and reading the lyrics you get a sense of her being pulled along through a life of minor failures or insecurities:
“I wanna go out but I wanna stay home” (“Nobody really cares if you don’t go to the party”)
“What do I know anyhow?” (“Dead fox”)
“It’s a curse, my lack of athleticism” (“Aqua profunda!”)
“I stare at the lawn – it needs a cut but I leave it growing.” (“Small poppies”)
“Tell me when you’re getting bored and I’ll leave” (“Debbie downer”)
Here we have songs about shopping for a house, buying organic groceries, driving past roadkill, trying to impress a fellow swimmer at the pool, not cutting the grass. In the words of T.S. Eliot, “here’s no great matter,” yet despite this, when you step back from judging too heavily about the subject matter, this album is actually in fact pretty great after all.
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