Saturday, November 14, 2015
On Friday I heard Courtney Barnett's single 'Depreston' for the first time. I know what you're thinking. Am I living under some kind of rock? I'm last to hear anything and everything, my music know-how so low, since my car radio is tuned to Fox, PBS and Radio National depending on my companions and my own state of mind.
I'd been hearing good things about Barnett's album and its barnstorming ways up charts here and in the States so my response to hearing her now award-winning song surprised me. I liked it but I think I expected a bigger song, instrumentally and its canvas, though press articles about the "telling detail" in her writing should have alerted me to the fact that specificity – being attuned to the spaces, places and emotional texture of life at this point in time as a 30something north sider – is her thing. She sings about going to an open for inspection in the now gentrified former working class suburb of Preston with a light, comic touch, though the subtext of the song is economics. I wondered whether 'Depreston' has struck a chord with people because of its truthfulness: on the subject of Preston we are in total agreement.
In life we are rarely given the opportunity to feel into another person's inner world, even our family and friends remain essentially mysterious. That inner world is the place where working life intersects with intimacy and love, the place where our bank balance and our aspirations face one another. This is the the land of self-talk, a patter that veers between hopefulness and resignation that circles around questions of self-worth and the material. Some days it veers off towards questions of security and safety, other days it strays towards worries over power and influence but it always begins and ends with the question: how much is enough?