Melbourne anthems: Honouring Courtney Barnett’s endlessly-relatable Depreston

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Melbourne anthems: Honouring Courtney Barnett’s endlessly-relatable Depreston

Words by Tom Parker

Depreston is the first instalment of our Melbourne anthems series, which sees us pay homage to memorable songs about this fine city.

Looking for a new house is cyclic for the modern Melbourne bohemian. Whether you’re a hardened renter on the prowl for that next periodic abode or a career aspirant chasing that wise investment, we’ve all been in that situation of open house, repeat, open house, repeat, open house, repeat.

Courtney Barnett’s been there too, and she’s fed up with the crawl. Barnett has become a shoulder to lean upon for millennials all across the world; her music standing as a beacon of relatability and escape. 2015’s Depreston carries the baton for such eminence, with its cosy folk-rock construction and wily lyrics.

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The song speaks of the unceasing escapade to secure that next hood, normalising the very nature of it not going to plan.

We drive to a house in Preston/We see police arresting/A man with his hand in a bag,” Barnett sings. “How’s that for first impressions?/This place seems depressing/It’s a Californian bungalow in a cul-de-sac.”

Amidst the song’s soft melody, Depreston could appear as a sprightly summer ode, but it’s clearly not that. The song alludes to Melbourne’s eating gentrification and the merciless real estate agents fostering an all-consuming revolution.

This comes to a head with the song’s closing refrain. “If you’ve got a/Spare half a million/You could knock it down/And start rebuildin’,” Barnett sings. The words of a heedless realo ring true to a cavalcade of hopeless house hunters.

And the song’s references to mortality? Barnett’s visit to a deceased estate nurtures a series of existential realisations.

“And it’s going pretty cheap you say/Well it’s a deceased estate/Aren’t the pressed metal ceilings great?” she sings. “Then I see the handrail in the shower/A collection of those canisters for coffee tea and flour/And a photo of a young man in a van in Vietnam.”

Perusing a former occupant’s belongings with the knowledge that they are no longer with us certainly doesn’t generate much confidence. To this point, the very thought of buying a house couldn’t be more treacherous and far-fetched.

Depreston is stark, candid and at times confronting but it’s quintessentially Melbourne, channelling a narrative locals know all too well.

Here’s to more endlessly relatable tracks from Australia’s proud indie-rock exponent.

Keen on another fun read? Check out our piece on the Melbourne live music venues we dearly miss from the last 30 years.