Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

Lucy Dacus – I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore

So Lucy, what’s it like to have 20 record labels fighting over you?


Hannah Jocelyn: On No Burden, Dacus creates perfect indie rock song after perfect indie rock song almost effortlessly. Beautiful tattoo-ready one-liners appear every few minutes or so — highlights include “without you, I am surely the last of my kind” from Dream State, and “You’ve got a mind of gold you keep secret/I gotta hope that one day you’ll use it” from Strange Torpedo. Then there’s the first track, an album’s worth of quotable lines all in a row. Of course blogs will compare her to Courtney Barnett, Frankie Cosmos, and others, but Dacus transcends her influences easily. What sets her apart in “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” is the way she deals with that stupid thing called identity without ever calling attention to herself. Line after line, she nonchalantly shifts genders and personas in the search for her sense of self — she’s the “odd man out,” then she’s the “cute one,” then the “biggest fan,” and ultimately “the artist.” The bridge is perfect too; she yearns to be taken seriously by invoking the naivety she keeps promising to escape (“try not to laugh/I know it’ll be hard/I’m serious/I know it’s a first…”). With all these contradictions, and with the delivery, Lucy Dacus sounds enough like a real human being that it’s possible to imagine being in the room with her as she vents — and to tell her that she doesn’t need to be anyone but herself.

Alfred Soto: This purported favorite of failed vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine has got the pretend college radio diffidence and electric guitar strums down. Just the right length too, for worse than pretending to be not funny is pretending to think that a gimmick deserves its space.

Ryo Miyauchi: Screaming as a way to communicate frustration has become so overrated for me this year. It’s too easy, and the loudest in the room is always the same voice yelling the same thing. Lucy Dacus got my attention because she sings this so matter-of-fact. The delivery suits her and her point. Why can people only see her most basic facets? Is she not edgy enough for you to seek more? Some time ago, I was told I’m too polite. The comment comes back when I hear this.

Katherine St Asaph: The lyric betrays the main issue: Dacus seems terrified that allowing the power-pop arrangement this so very much aches for would slap the clown mask on again. Colleen Green would have made this bitter. MayKay would have made it funny. Kay Hanley would have made it fun.

Juana Giaimo: I’m tired of these indie ’90s-inspired songs. In “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore,” the rough plain guitars are a constant bother that crushes every possible energy out of Lucy Dacus’s vocals. At first, she seems to be embodying her own words with her apathetic tone. But on further listens, her description of feminine stereotypes comes off rather condescending, as if she felt superior to people who wear short skirts, are fans or gossip — and as if she was still trying to be funny. 

Brad Shoup: Nothing’s funnier than the doleful guitar overtones, not even the part where Dacus suggests becoming the gossip so she can blab about how she’s changed. It’s a well-done, bog-standard four-on-the-floor rock tune, but she keeps taking facepulling lines and turning them into these classicist wishes. So: maybe it’s working? 

Will Adams: At my university, it was common for people to be defined by their extracurriculars to the point that “What do you do here?” was as common a first date question as “Where are you from?” He’s on the tennis team. She does stand-up. They direct plays. You’re on the editorial board, you do journalism, right? My box was improv comedy. It brought me my closest friends and the opportunity to make others laugh, but throughout my college career, I struggled to convince anyone I did anything but make faces on a stage. “Oh, you’re so funny!” felt less and less like a compliment and more like an indictment. It scared me into submission; why bother piping up about my other passions, my music, my anything else? Who would believe me? I’m out of college now, but I’m just as reserved and retracted into a shell of humor. So while the thin arrangement in “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” leaves a bit to be desired, the lyrics hit home. Lucy Dacus’s confession is so plainspoken that it doesn’t feel like fantasy for me. It feels like something I could actually use to stick up for myself.

Iain Mew: In the gap between the roil of guitars and Dacus’s soft-spoken desires lies the tension that powers “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore.” It’s a really self-contained piece that gives me the feeling of every time I understate something and long for the other person too to sense the massive unspoken feeling that lies behind.

Edward Okulicz: That first verse is wonderful lyrically — if she can’t be in the band, she’ll be the biggest fan. And coupled with her shy delivery, and I’m chuckling as I’m nodding. I’m not entirely sure I need Dacus when I have Courtney Barnett, but sure, why not?

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