Stella Donnelly’s ‘Beware of the Dogs’ is a no-holds-barred look at the world

Stella Donnelly’s ‘Beware of the Dogs’ is a no-holds-barred look at the world

Stella Donnelly
Words by Lexi Herbert

Throughout her first LP, Donnelly brandishes her quick wit and humour as a weapon against the subtle patriarchal standards and structures plaguing her home country of Australia. Despite her ascension to international acclaim, Donnelly’s Aussie twang and starkly realistic lyricisms are as consistent and raw as when she quietly released 2017’s Thrush Metal.

Though unsurprising, Donnelly’s lyrics – charged with socio-political agenda and understanding – are refreshingly cutthroat as she sweetly vibratos her way through the more targeted tunes. The title track cuts the one per cent down to size with a single line – “all these pious fucks taking from the 99” – while ‘Old Man’ sees Donnelly confirm that, despite how charismatic an abuser may be, “your personality traits don’t count if you put your dick in someone’s face”.

However, to reduce Donnelly’s record to solely a bitter warlock-hunt would be to entirely misunderstand the political discourse that flows through both the mainstream and subtext of the record. Donnelly doesn’t hate everyone or everything; she’s simply pointing out the inconsistencies of structures that serve the few while the majority suffer, as told through her self-described “relatively privileged position” as a woman in today’s society. Perhaps her most personal release to date, ‘Watching Telly’ provides a bleak narrative of Donnelly’s own experience with contraceptive strategies, and the obvious disparity between her sexual partner’s experience as opposed to her own; while she’s “throwing up on her birthday” in the second refrain, he’s noticeably absent after the first verse.

Adversely, ‘Lunch’ is a more personal exploration of her own displacement while touring, as well as an ode to those who help her along the way (see the music video for some nostalgic visuals). Two break-up songs also made the cut, such as ‘Allergies’, which was recorded the very day of the breakup itself; you can hear her sniffling between verses.

‘Mosquito’ is a definite highlight, and was described by Donnelly as “the only love song I’ll ever write”. That being said, she’s nailed it on the first go. Crass, literal, and layered with harmonies sitting atop a butter-smooth hook, the sparse production leaves you waiting for Donnelly to stroll through your door without cake in hand.

Overall, Donnelly trusts those that engage with this record (ie. anyone with two ears, a political conscience and a heart). Her concern for the future of women – in both her home country and the world as a whole – is a palpable undercurrent that refuses to wane.