Avant Gardener – Peeling Back the Layers of Existential Angst and Botanical Metaphors

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Courtney Barnett's Avant Gardener at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. The Monotony of Modern Existence
  5. Botanical Metaphors for Self-growth and Recovery
  6. The Struggle for Air: A Metaphor for Living
  7. Unraveling the Hidden Meaning: Life’s Ambulance Rides
  8. The Lasting Echo of Memorable Lines


I sleep in late
Another day
Oh what a wonder
Oh what a waste
It’s a Monday
It’s so mundane
What exciting things
Will happen today?
The yard is full of hard rubbish it’s a mess and
I guess the neighbors must think we run a meth lab
We should amend that
I pull the sheets back
It’s 40 degrees
And i feel like I’m dying
Life’s getting hard in here
So i do some gardening
Anything to take my mind away from where it’s supposed to be
The nice lady next door talks of green beds
And all the nice things that she wants to plant in them
I wanna grow tomatoes on the front steps
Sunflowers, bean sprouts, sweet corn and radishes
I feel pro-active
I pull out weeds
All of a sudden
I’m having trouble breathing in
I’m having trouble breathing in
I’m having trouble breathing in
I’m having trouble breathing in

My hands are shaky
My knees are weak
I can’t seem to stand
On my own two feet
I’m breathing but I’m wheezing
Feel like I’m emphysemin’
My throat feels like a funnel
Filled with weet bix and kerosene and
Oh no, next thing i know
They call up triple O
I’d rather die than owe the hospital
Till I get old
I get adrenalin
Straight to the heart
I feel like Uma Thurman
Post-overdosing kick start
Reminds me of the time
When i was really sick and I
Had too much psuedoefedryn and I
Couldn’t sleep at night
Halfway down high street, Andy looks ambivalent
He’s probably wondering what I’m doing getting in an ambulance
The paramedic thinks I’m clever ’cause I play guitar
I think she’s clever cos she stops people dying
Anaphylactic and super hypocondriactic
Should’ve stayed in bed today
I much prefer the mundane
I take a hit from
An asthma puffer
I do it wrong
I was never good at smoking bongs
I’m not that good at breathing in
I’m not that good at breathing in
I’m not that good at breathing in

Full Lyrics

Courtney Barnett’s ‘Avant Gardener’ is a masterful concoction of deadpan humor and existential dread set to an indie-rock chord progression that feels as casual as it does pointed. This semi-autobiographical narrative weaves mundane life with a sudden confrontation of mortality, all within the framework of an otherwise uneventful Monday.

The song, layered with Barnett’s characteristic witticisms and vivid storytelling, has struck a chord with listeners globally. It’s in the unassuming guise of gardening that the track delves into themes of purpose, the overwhelming nature of modern life, and the unexpected ways our bodies can betray us.

The Monotony of Modern Existence

Through the monologue-style lyrics, Barnett captures the essence of contemporary ennui. The opening lines set up a day so typical and unremarkable that it prompts an internal cry for meaning amongst the drone of everyday subsistence.

Describing an unkempt yard, she also subtly touches upon the pressure and perceptions of societal norms. The seemingly trivial act of gardening amplifies into an examination of self-worth and the desire for productivity in a world that demands constant motion.

Botanical Metaphors for Self-growth and Recovery

The choice of gardening as a central motif is no accident – Barnett intertwines horticultural tasks with inner growth and well-being. The desire to cultivate tomatoes and sunflowers on the front steps symbolizes a longing for simplicity and nurturing one’s vital needs.

However, her physical reaction to the activity – the trouble breathing in – is a stark reminder of the fragility of life and perhaps an allegory for how sometimes the things that are meant to bring us peace and growth can instead lead to unexpected suffocation.

The Struggle for Air: A Metaphor for Living

Repeatedly gasping, ‘I’m having trouble breathing in,’ Barnett points to a literal inability to catch her breath, possibly alluding to an asthma attack or anxiety-induced hyperventilation. Yet, these lines resonate on a deeper level, symbolizing the overall difficulty of absorbing and withstanding the realities of existence.

This refrain stands as the crescendo of the song, encapsulating the struggle that is both acutely personal and universally relatable: the ongoing endeavor to just ‘breathe’ through the challenges that life unpredictably throws our way.

Unraveling the Hidden Meaning: Life’s Ambulance Rides

The ambulance scene can be interpreted as a defining moment of clarity and confrontation with one’s vulnerability. Barnett’s lyrics paint a vivid picture of the internal chaos that ensues when faced with a life-threatening experience.

Juxtaposing perceptions of intelligence between her guitar-playing abilities and the paramedic’s life-saving skills, Barnett subtly questions the value placed on different forms of knowledge and talent. The anaphylactic attack also serves as a metaphor for acute anxiety about life’s unpredictability.

The Lasting Echo of Memorable Lines

Courtney Barnett’s rendition of a near-death experience is both dramatic and tarnished with an ordinary backdrop, yielding lines that haunt long after the music has stopped. The whimsical yet poignant ‘I feel like Uma Thurman post-overdosing kick start’ illustrates the absurdity and randomness with which intense life moments are met.

The line ‘I’d rather die than owe the hospital till I get old’ encapsulates a pervasive cultural anxiety about healthcare and financial security, presented with Barnett’s typical slacker nonchalance that carries a heavy undertone of critique.

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