Courtney Barnett - Close Watch (John Cale Cover)

Tracing fragile melody lines, and taking on major musical influences in the process, this is Barnett at her most arresting.

Photo: Mike Massaro

Right now there are few voices in music as distinctive as Courtney Barnett’s. She paints her vivid pictures with twanging, Aussie-flavoured spoken-word paints, and her delivery is so casual - bordering at times on flippant - that it’s easy to miss the meticulous constructions and language-quirks at almost every turn. In contrast to the playfulness of much of her debut, and drawing out the most melancholy elements of its A-Side ‘Kim’s Caravan,’ Barnett’s cover of John Cale’s ‘Close Watch’ shows her unmistakable voice in a different light.

The Velvet Underground’s influence has always been hovering in the background of Courtney Barnett’s music, and though she’s by no means indebted to them at all, flickers of ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ or ‘The Gift’ register as touchstones in her own kaleidoscopic slabs of rock. It’s easy to see why she chose to cover John Cale’s ‘Close Watch’ for her Record Store Day B-Side, then, and she finds a perfect fit.

Stripping back Cale’s ballad-epic pianos, and tracing more fragile melody lines instead, when Courtney Barnett sings “I can’t live without you, any way at all,’ she sounds like she really means it. This is Barnett at her most arresting, treading ever-further down melancholy street.

Tags: Courtney Barnett, John Cale, Reviews, Listen

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