Written By: Andrew Sedo
Originality: (4.0 / 5) Vocals/Flow: (5.0 / 5) Lyrics: (4.5 / 5) Production: (5.0 / 5) Average: (4.6 / 5)
It’s either difficult or pointless to review an album which contains the lyrics, “Most critics are pussies who want to look cool / Those who can, they do / Those who can’t review”, but so is my predicament upon listening to Jen Cloher’s eponymous 4th release. Is the quote above (from standout “Shoegazers”) an over-boiling of the hatred of a scorned artist or a continuation of rock’s tradition of badass, take-no-shit women, (think Patti Smith, Joan Jett, the Wilson Sisters and many others, of course).
As she alludes to on “Shoegazers”, a rebuke of the fashionable indie du jour, Cloher is in a relationship with a more famous artist “I went out on the road with my girlfriend / I watched her have the career most people dream … / It doesn’t sound so bad / But it’s exhausting up here on the surface” which falls somewhere between backhanded compliment and crushing self realization. Her more famous half is Australian indie star Courtney Barnett ,whose name Cloher, I’m certain, has anticipated as appearing in every review of her work. However, if Barnet’s dry wit and ironic humor have permeated this album it’s only by sheer osmosis. Another tour-mate, Kurt Vile’s penchant for ambiguous poetic imagery seems a more likely influence.
The album’s most symbolic track is subdued bass driven “Kinda Biblical” where Cloher decries political correctness “You can’t say Merry Christmas /It’s all Happy Holidays correctness / Welfare cheques on my tax dollar / Bad Hombres and Wall Street Robbers” as she endeavors to take back space for the individual from Orwellian group-think. It’s no surprise as distrust for the media, and contempt for political correctness inform much of today’s social dialogue. However, Cloher has no opinion on the matter simply threatening to “Rain my bluebirds down” on those who disagree with a stance she never takes. While good old fashioned rock and roll certainly has its place as an instrument of change, it’s also the ultimate forum to consider, perhaps, everyone is wrong.
As it closes in a bombastic outro, we realize it’s a bitter love song to her famous girlfriend. Ending with the chorus “Oh God I forgot myself / Oh God I forgot my health / I’ve seen it coming but it’s too late now” Cloher is maturing past her classic rock and roll impulses of glorified self destruction.
As a critic, I usually try to close with some grandiose statement of bigger meaning. However, as stated in the beginning, in this case it doesn’t seem fitting for a work of such refined power. Jen Cloher fucking rocks and her album is good, how’s that for trying to look cool?