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A closer look at six of Courtney Barnett’s wittiest lyrics

Avant Gardener. Depreston. Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence. These are all song titles from one of our favourite indie-wordsmiths, Courtney Barnett. She’s got a knack for storytelling, and she’s witty as all hell when she wants to be. Especially with those ripper deadpan vocals.

While she’s busy writing the soundtrack for upcoming doco Brazen Hussies, we thought it would be a bit of fun to revisit some of her wittiest moments. She’s been releasing music since 2013, so let’s just get right into it. There’s a load to grin about

From meth labs to Mi-Goreng, we look at six of the wittiest, funniest, and sharpest lyrics from our indie-rock Queen, Courtney Barnett.

Avant Gardener: “The yard is full of hard rubbish it’s a mess and I guess the neighbours must think we run a meth lab”

There’s not much that hasn’t already been said about Avant Gardener. The intensely lyric-focused masterpiece won Courtney Barnett best music video at the ARIAs and brought the Melbourne-based singer more fans than most indie up-and-comers could ever wish for. Every line in this song contributes to the overall story, while still being strong enough to be read individually. The meth lab line is my favourite as my dad, instead of wincing at the drug reference (like with most songs), appreciated the clever humour within. Some other standouts from the track include “She thinks I’m clever cuz I play guitar, I think she’s clever cuz she stops people dying” and of course, “I take a hit from an asthma puffer, I do it wrong I was never good at smoking bongs”. Finding the similarity between asthma puffers and bongs is the sort of artistic observation you don’t find on every street corner. Even in Melbourne.

Pedestrian At Best – “I think you’re a joke, but I don’t find you very funny”

Savagery at its most hilarious. Imagine cracking a line like this to the playground bully back in the day. All throughout Pedestrian At Best, Barnett rambles about indecision and uncertainty, presumably regarding a love interest. She loves them and hates them, then admits she’ll probably just exploit them. It’s exceptionally honest but doesn’t take itself too seriously either, which is difficult to pull off. Her “internal monologue is saturated analogue” yet still delivers all its punches right on time. Unfortunately, this is clearly not the case for the unlucky subject matter of the track.

History Eraser – “In my dreams I wrote the best song that I’ve ever written, can’t remember how it goes”

Ohhh how frustrating! I suppose we can’t all be of Paul McCartney’s calibre, writing Let It Be’s straight from our dreams. It looks like Barnett gets close, but in an amusing anti-climax, she can’t even remember what the song went. A particularly unrelenting eraser seems to have rubbed her best idea into the void, but at least we got a killer line about it. The remainder of the song is a series of connected and highly visual moments that are mentally transporting, but the dream is never revisited. History, erased.

Pickles from the Jar – “You love I love Christopher Walken. I guess at least we have got one thing in common”

Such a ridiculous thing to agree on, yet it’s all they can seem to find. Pickles from the Jar is a musically-simple, but cheeky banger that has you gripping onto every line. Throughout the whole song, Barnett and an unnamed opposite have different ways of experiencing just about everything. “I am dumb, you are smart”, “You like mornings I like nights”. You get the idea. It goes on and on till finally, they find common ground! It’s about the stupidest thing to find common ground on; Christopher Walken. An actor who isn’t exactly a spectacle of heated controversy like say, Nick Cage. However, it’s out of nowhere, and it’s something. Truly a comical listen every time.

Nameless, Faceless – “He said, ‘I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and spit out better words than you”

Barnett’s most recent album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, often feels more sombre and serious than her previous body of work. It’s fantastic and has some ripper songs like City Looks Pretty, but her wittier side songwriting does become more infrequent. That being said, smack bang in the middle of the tracklist is Nameless, Faceless, which holds this little lyrical nugget of misinformed opinion. For any guy to claim they can spit better words than Barnett, try racking up over a million monthly listeners on Spotify first. His line though, if it truly is verbatim and not Barnett’s own written genius, is quite sharp.

Three Packs a Day – “I’m down to three packs a day of Mi-Goreng I can’t explain it”

University students everywhere felt this. This beautifully breezy tune is a personal favourite and has some of Barnett’s most on-brand, whacky queries, such as whether Mi-Goreng noodles really stay together with glue. “2 minutes seems like a lifetime” is another perfectly mundane, spot-on observation from the singer-songwriter. It really is true that a watched pot never boils. And you probably thought this song was about cigarettes.

Up next: Courtney Barnett – MTV Unplugged (Live in Melbourne)