Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice Review

Be still, my hipster heart!
Matador Records, 2017
Purchase: Matador Records / Amazon

6.0 / 10

The best thing about Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile making an album together is the idea of it. Two of indie rock’s most distinctive voices coming together — what’s not to like? They’re both guitar-rock purists in an age where that has become the minority. They both have fun, playful lyrics that can often belie a darker turmoil. And to make the idea of a Barnett / Vile collaboration all the more tantalizing, their geography defines their work. Go on, try to find a review of Barnett that doesn’t mention Australia or a description of Vile that doesn’t discuss his humble Pittsburgh beginnings. You can imagine what this team-up would sound like, only, now you don’t have to: Lotta Sea Lice actually exists.

But there are some things better left to the imagination. This isn’t to say that Lotta Sea Lice is bad by any means, but there’s no way that it will live up to your expectations given the two songwriters here. It’s like Jodorowsky’s Dune. Or Kubrick’s finished cut of AI. Those products may have been good, but there’s more fun to be had imagining what those films could have been if they were made.

Lotta Sea Lice bridges the gap between Vile and Barnett, perhaps favoring Vile’s jangle in many areas. It lacks the pure wit and absurdity of Barnett’s work, but it lacks some of the painful depths of Vile’s. The resulting collection of music is good, but it also lacks some of the artists’ defining characteristics. So don’t go into this expecting the same magic of David Byrne and St. Vincent’s team-up (Love This Giant), and don’t expect the songwriting competition of the Raconteurs either. Go into it expecting two songwriters making music for themselves, not pushing themselves out of their own comfort zones, but happily wallowing in them.

Key Tracks:
“Over Everything”
“Outta the Woodwork”