Courtney Barnett – Things Take Time, Take Time: Album Review

Courtney Barnett brings us bright drone pop filled with melodic hooks in a distinctive spoken singing voice. These songs were worked up in the first phase of world Lockdown, when she returned home to Melbourne early in 2020. All the songs have a lift in spirit and sound light and buoyant rather than weighty. Something was liberated inside her spirit at that time.

Things Take Time, Take Time. An alliterative album title and a meditative mantra.

Rae Street is a long tracking shot of an idyllic suburban street, all sun-drenched to the point of suspended animation. Barnett has that Lou Reed dead-pan drawl. With subtle melodic shifts which amplify her emotions with a minimalist effort. Compare her to Liz Phair too, especially the tone on the Guyville album.

She does it prettier than Reed. She is Sweet Jane, who’s in her vest. A jangle-chanks rhythm guitar line. The camera goes from a child riding a bike to a garbage truck to lawn mowers. The song captures perfectly that time when you were caught in a reverie and you couldn’t quite pinpoint the strangeness. Lay it on the table/ You seem so stable/ but you’re just hanging on. In an instant, the whole world had changed forever.

Sunfair Sundown. Sunny Pop and the tempo rises a shade. Shine a torch on the path. The guitar sparkles around a leading drum riff. Full of light and then goes out with I don’t want you to be alone extending on the vamp. 

Here’s the Thing. Her guitar sound is wonderful throughout, and here she does a great Johnny Marr recreation. Something like the intro to the Smith’s Unloveable.

Courtney Barnett

Before You Gotta Go. I wanted you to know,know,know. What sounds like hand drums around which a chiming guitar drone locks in. There is the suggestion of an Eastern melody. Shades of Velvet Underground in their melodic aspect as the music adds little hooks to build the momentum.

One of the highlights of the recent Velvet’s tribute album, I’ll Be Your Mirror, was that title track sung by Barnett to stunning minimalist effect.

Turning Green. A drum machine is joined by a human in harmony. Added percussion from bata sticks. The bass pulls everything along in an undertow and when the dissonant guitar comes in at the half-way mark, the influence of Eno and Byrne’s Bush of Ghosts rises up. She sounds nasal on the higher notes.

Take it Day by Day could be the Monkees when they were doing Pop music with street smarts like Boyce and Hart’s (I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone.

A little Pop masterpiece is If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight. Close to the classic inspirational Pop songs of the Sixties. Full of melodic hooks and riffs. The singing falls between Reed and the naive style of Jonathan Richman. We could call it Velvet Pop.

Courtney Barnett

Stars in the sky are gonna die/ Just like a lonely satellite/ And it’s so quiet outside with this curfew lullaby/ If I don’t hear from you tonight.

A lot of those stars are long gone. We see their ancient light departing. I fantasise I’m by your side/ I lay awake and wonder why/ I pray for rain and angels’ cry.

Oh, The Night. The closing song and a slower romantic beat. Barnett lags a fraction behind the beat. Dreamy Pop which reaches back to Doo-Wop. That’s family from Uncle Lou’s side. Those stars that have long gone but the light still shines. The Dells Oh What a Night.

Barnett has said that she feels her vulnerability on this album. This is a reflection of what many felt when the strangeness descended last year. And Melbourne experienced a particularly tough time. This music is free-flying inspirational Pop. It reflects the nature of the great city.

Rev Orange Peel