Last year I was in a funk. I had come around to the idea that music couldn’t change the world. The more I found myself arriving at this kind of thinking the more I couldn’t escape it.
I had these thoughts. What hope does music have of changing the world when capitalism and its other attendant forces of oppression appropriate so deftly all that seeks to destroy it? Then came another, one that really laid me low. It was this: What is music, for all its art, but a children’s sandbox to frolic and twist around in while the powers guard closely the 50 foot of prison walls that surround it?
Amidst all of this bad thought was a wariness of Stella Donnelly. Not through any failings of her own, but my own built-in reservation. Given the climate of last year’s music – one of protest – there was unhealthy scepticism I held towards those waving the banners. Sure, a lot of them were genuine, but this is show biz. For every creative soul genuinely taking on the issues there’s a dozen more willing to simply pay lip service to get ahead.
But whatever suspicions may have been harboured, they are now gone. With Beware of the Dogs I am convinced. Convinced not only that Stella Donnelly has something to say but that she means it. True to her inner dialogue, she’s speaking her own thoughts and playing the kind of music that gives them impact.
There is a lot of overstatement in the Australian music press but after finishing this record and reading that Donnelly is someone worth believing in or that Beware is one of the best records this year has offered, I can believe it. Donnelly is the real deal. She is making music which is not only exciting but significant.
Example. ‘Old Man’. The chorus, those lyrics.
Oh, Are you scared of me old man?
Or are scared of what I’ll do?
It’s a song that tells you how it really is. The times are a-changing or as Donnelly would put it the world is grabbing back at those who have grabbed. She didn’t get this far not to stand beside what’s right and just, she’ll bite the hand that feeds. Through this example, she invites others to do the same.
Contemporaries like Julia Jacklin dive into the same seam of confessional songwriting Donnelly does, but I feel she distinguishes herself with the verve with which she puts it across. While politely stating herself, here is an artist with real attitude. This music isn’t asking, it’s telling and it’s doing. Even if it’s just for a flickering moment here is someone changing their own reality and their listeners’ too and with them the world around them.
Get out of the way if you can’t lend a hand because it’s coming. Whether you want her or not, Stella Donnelly is here to start sh*t, disturb the peace and tear things up. She’s not going to drop the attitude.
Beware Of The Dogs is a statement about Australia and its culture. It’s bigger than that too. It’s a series of experiences mapped from a burning heart and a restless mind, a story of falling in love, people talking in bars and the search for something better.
It took me a while to feel it but through this record I can. Music’s revolution is back on.
Words by Riley Fitzgerald
lennoxgroove [at] gmail.com for all press releases and news.
nath [at] lennoxgroove.com for all artist management and bookings requests.
ben [at] lennoxgroove.com for all music submissions.