Returning with ‘Nameless, Faceless,’ - the first slice of forthcoming second album ‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’ - the first thing that strikes you about Courtney Barnett is the scope she’s gained since her debut. While ‘Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I just Sit’ turned out and perfectly articulated the many sides of personal introversion and anxiety, along with artfully rendered, minuscule details from everyday life; peeling paint, Vegemite crumbs, and Swanson commuters, Barnett’s latest seems to see her taking on the anxieties of the world at large instead.
Paraphrasing a quote from The Handmaids’ Tale author Margaret Atwood in the chorus - “Men are scared that women will laugh at them… women are scared that men will kill them” - mock-pitying keyboard warriors (“I wish that someone could hug you,” she jokes) and parodying the image of somebody mansplaining using a bowl of alphabet soup, she’s still armed with the wit of her first record, but takes a different approach. The surprise success of her debut has clearly emboldened the Melbourne musician no end; as she told GQ in an interview this week, “Now I feel like I’m allowed to say what I want.”
Many people listening to ‘Nameless, Faceless’ will identify with the absurd and saddening reality of walking through quiet patches of town with keys poised between your knuckles - just in case - just as sending a customary “home safe” text after a night out with mates will be a second nature reflex. Hearing Courtney Barnett take on the patently political, then - with the gigantic riffs and untamed anger to match - feels like a vital move forward.