The Wednesday Pop Culture Rant would like to congratulate Tyler Armstrong of Indiana for running a meth lab out of a Wal-Mart bathroom. And really, when you see Wal-Mart’s prices on cold medicine and drain opener, you can’t afford not to run your meth lab there. Apparently Tyler is part of the new craze of mixing up your meth and then letting it cook, often in backpack, in a public place so you don’t blow up your own house. Because it’s better to be charged with multiple homicides than make a claim on your homeowner’s insurance. I guess not all meth cooks are nicknamed Heisenberg. Just when The Rant didn’t think the story could get any better, it turns out Tyler was apprehended in a Taco Bell. Of course he was. Well played Tyler. Well played.
We must rant: Long-time readers of The Rant know Lana Del Rey has been our imaginary girlfriend since “Video Games”. But that was so 2014, especially after John Seabrook noted his own Lana obsession in The New Yorker. Once again, The Rant remains way ahead of the curve. So it’s over Lana. Yes, we had some special times, but we have to move on because there’s only room for one self-absorbed, shallow person in our lives and it’s us. Don’t make this harder than it has to be.
Our new bestie is Courtney Barnett, an Australian singer-songwriter that weaves a marvelous narrative, stream-of-consciousness delivery with punky guitar riffs. Barnett is sly and funny and self-deprecating, her word play and internal rhyme impeccable. In “Avant Gardener,” her ode to growing tomatoes and anaphylactic shock, the ambulance arrives:
I’d rather die than owe the hospital
Till I get old
I get adrenalin
Straight to the heart
I feel like Uma Thurman
Post-overdosing kick start
On the ride to the hospital, “The paramedic thinks I’m clever cos I play guitar/I think she’s clever cos she stops people dying.” Her ultimate conclusion, “I’m not that good at breathing in.”
At the risk of causing Greil Marcus to need his own adrenalin to the heart, The Rant can hear echoes of Bob Dylan in Barnett that take his early, rambling style in new directions. The difference from other songwriters that sound like poor imitations is that Barnett has the chops to keep up with Dylan’s phrasing and use of language. Cue up Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and then listen to Barnett’s “Pedestrian at Best:”
my internal monologue is saturated analog it’s scratched and drifting I’ve become attached to the idea it’s all a shifting dream bittersweet philosophy I’ve got no idea how I even got here I’m resentful I’m having an existential time crisis what bliss daylight savings wont fix this mess under worked and oversexed I must express my disinterest the rats are back inside my head what would Freud’ve said
put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you
tell me I’m exceptional and I promise to exploit you
give me all your money and I’ll make some origami honey
I think you’re a joke but I don’t find you very funny
Like Dylan, Barnett can take on great authority and then undercut the pretension, “And in my dreams I wrote the best song I’ve ever written . . . can’t remember how it goes.” The Rant isn’t making any great pronouncements that Barnett will have the influence or staying power of Dylan, so just calm down. But we are excited that a musician can still find a space to create something fresh and compelling in a world of prepackaged pop and indie preciousness.
So The Rant has taken down our black light Lana poster, and we’re waiting for your call Courtney. The Rant is reminded of Rob Gordon’s dream in High Fidelity: “I wanna live with a musician. She’d write songs at home and ask me what I thought of them, and maybe even include one of our little private jokes in the liner notes”. Dream on Rob, but The Rant fears the Courtneys of the world think we’re a joke they don’t find very funny.