WHENEVER I think there’s nothing more to be done with four guitar chords, along comes someone to reassure the universe that all the great songs haven’t been written yet. Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett is an atavistic original, a spooky, whip-smart rock and roll magician.
Courtney Barnett, SWG3, Glasgow ****
Her deadpan, sensual, seesaw voice may owe something to the sainted alt-rock Kims, Gordon and Deal (the latter, alongside sister Kelley, backed Barnett on tour in 2017), but together with her finger-strummed electric guitar it’s one of the most beautifully distinctive sounds around right now. She’s cool but never arch or remote. Her music beats with an actual human pulse. She discovers new twists and hooks within familiar song structures. Most of them stick on first impact. Her lyrics, candid snapshots from her everyday existence, are conversational, tender, pointed and droll.
Barnett’s collar-grabbing power trio – Dave Mudie on drums and the splendidly named Bones Sloane on bass – play heavier live than on record and she projects more forcefully (relatively speaking, at least), but that doesn’t mean they bludgeon the catalogue. It’s just recontextualised for sweaty rooms packed with fans who sing along with every existential bubblegum refrain.
Highlight: Barnett beaming brightly when they trilled “I’m having trouble breathing in” from signature “hit” Avant Gardener back at her. We were all having a ball.
It’s a pleasure to report, without a hint of irony or embarrassment, that Courtney Barnett rocks. She restores my faith in the future of this music.