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‘Anonymous Club’ Review: The Joy of Creation

The singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett started out as a DIY artist, home-recording energetic songs communicating knotty feelings. Early in this …

‘Anonymous Club’ Review: The Joy of Creation
14.07.2022 17:41

The singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett started out as a DIY artist, home-recording energetic songs communicating knotty feelings. Early in this documentary, written and directed by Danny Cohen, a cheery interviewer leads into a question by saying that it’s not too common to hear artists “singing about panic attacks.” This reflects more on the limited listening experience of the interviewer than anything else, but you get the idea.

The images in “Anonymous Club” are pretty conventional for a music documentary, particularly at the start. Barnett’s work blew up commercially after the 2015 release of her album “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit.” World tours with a backing band followed: We see trucks being unloaded at stadiums, lighting rigs going up, and electric guitars rocking out with post-punk clamor.

At Cohen’s request, Barnett kept an audio diary over several years. In it, she speaks about how the repetition of touring is giving her emotional state a beating. Barnett muses on the contradiction of how, in one performance, she might be “vivid and alive” and in the next “distant,” even though she’s going through the same motions with each show.

Because Barnett is shy by nature, and prone to depression and anxiety, touring gets to be a special kind of drag. In public she’s a sport: When a glib German interviewer quotes her lyric “I’m not your mother/I’m not your bitch” and then asks with a grin “who are you mad at?” she doesn’t take the bait.

Back at her home in Melbourne, she sits with her depression. Clearly a change is needed. A stripped-down tour with no backing band — and a musical collaboration with the drummer Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint — get Barnett back to the joy of creating. Perhaps not surprisingly, she achieves it in a setting not too different from the one in which she began.

Anonymous Club
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 23 minutes. In theaters.


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