Album Review: Billy The Kid – Look At Me, I’m Fine

“Emotion pulsates and it’s draining…importantly, it ends with the possibility of contentment and hope.”

*That* voice is back – you’ve been missed, Billy. The instrumentation is simple which serves to foreground the vocal and the narrative: “I may haunt you but you’re the ghost.”

Failure To Launch‘s insistent instrumentation trips over itself in insistence, with drums straying out of phase at times. Pettinger sounds resigned and apathetic but somehow serene when she shares “don’t tell me it’s alright/I just want to watch it burn.”

Billy Pettinger

There’s a shot of nostalgia for some of Billy’s mid-career work (as Billy The Kid) in the title track: “it feels like the end of the world/there are no heroes left/they’re all in jail for telling girls/you could be the one who’s next.” The disdain and spotlight of truth takes a darker turn in light of Pettinger’s experience with Ryan Adams.

As for the increasingly unconvincing phrase ‘look at me, I’m fine,’ Pettinger explained: “you don’t get to the other side of depression. You don’t get to the other side of a damaging relationship and just totally recover like it never happened…You just learn how to live with it better….you’re not fine and neither am I.”

No One Will Notice has an achingly tender vocal, verging on vulnerable. It’s an honest dissection of a lost relationship, all too relatable for so many of us: “if you were here right now/if I were beside you/I knew you’d let me down/but I could not forget you.” As the story unfolds, contemplating while stargazing, it becomes heartbreakingly clear that the spectre of suicide haunts, and that overshadows every other tiny tragedy with questions left unresolved.

Billy Pettinger (Black & White)

Pettinger sounds weary and the percussion is slightly off the beat again, just like a doomed affair: “you can’t hurt her/so you just hurt me/but I still feel you when I fall asleep.”

Based on the trauma that’s passed so far, what on earth could The Awful Truth be? Thankfully, it’s the creeping realisation of agency and being better off alone: “I seem to forget that I was doing just fine before we met…the awful truth may be I didn’t like you more than me.”

Ghosties has a gentle piano line but Pettinger sounds freer and brighter: “If anyone can hear me, I’m doing fine/just trying to navigate this heart of mine.” It seems a bit more believable than ‘look at me, I’m fine’ because she’s always been about narrative rather than an image: “if I don’t cheer up…nobody will.”

Pizza the dog has been a fixture of Pettinger’s life ever since they met so it’s not surprising that Dogs had to make an appearance somehow. Stargazing reappears – the impact of loss, space and ghosts are felt everywhere.

A Woman On The Brink is where this record has been leading. The decisive moment – “they kicked the door down/’she might not make it’ is all I could hear them say/and now I’m halfway between the living and the dead/can I take back the words that you said?” – is searing.

Billy Pettinger on a railway track with a guitar

Look At Me, I’m Fine is not about cliches, radio hits or commercial success – it’s peppered with grief, confusion, and trauma. Life is messy and hard. Pettinger is talented enough for it all to be a complex fictional narrative but, sadly, it feels all too real. Emotion pulsates and it’s draining to hear about, let alone live through.

It feels important, though, and it ends with a little victory: “I might not always be the one/but I wanted you to know that I don’t regret a thing/so long, it’s been fine/I always knew I’d disappear/and build myself a quiet life.” Importantly, it ends with the possibility of contentment and hope.

Look At Me, I’m Fine is out now on vinyl, CD and digital. Head to Pettinger’s Bandcamp to buy the record and merchandise.

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