Hailing from Middleton, UK, The Courteeners recently released their sophomore effort, “Falcon” (22 February 2010 in the UK, 23 March 2010 import into the USA, but downloadable on 6 April 2010). Loved by Morrissey (he even covered “What Took You So Long” on KRCW), he described their music as dynamic… and that hits the nail of the head. “Falcon” is lusciously arranged, but never cramming any one song with too much; an album of songs that work brilliantly together, yet each song emotes vibrancy and life of their own. And since they played their first show at the legendary Roadhouse in 2006, this is a band that had avoided the hype-machine (though it is dying to suck them right in) and gimmicky clichés, and instead has kept developing their chops to produce solid music.
The first teaser of the album was the lead single, “You Over Did It Doll”: “I love it, I shoot it like a tommy gun, but you will carry on until the day you are done. You never know when to stop, you’ll carry on until you’re dead and you drop… You over did it doll.” Solid pop with a funky edge, with wispy keys and a mean guitar riff… this was the first sign that “Falcon” would be a step towards maturity for the band. And this is the inevitable, as we all grow (older) and (hopefully) mature; instead of re-packaging their debut album, they offer up a nostalgic introspection of life. Instead of feigning all of the old emotions and anxieties, they embrace where they are in life.
The album is full of great moments. “Lullaby” is a brooding song of a break-up that apparently was undesired (“The night and day holds memories, but when I think of it now all I see is you at the back and you’re starting to cry. I wish I could have sung you a lullaby, but I can’t because I’m a mess… too proud”). Set to a slower tempo, almost that of a lullaby, the song muses in self-depreciation and regret (“It’s nobody’s fault but my own”). The song works brilliantly, because it never wallows; Liam Fray, instead, sings from a more honest, contemplative place. Yet, like the rest of the album, the song never saddens you, even if you can relate to it. Instead, the album through and through is uplifting.
The closer is one of those arena/stadium anthems: “Will It Be This Way Forever?”: “Victoria Park, after dark, kissing on the wall trying not to fall into your heart, and into your head. Take me somewhere else, take me to your bed…” and the beat drops, “Naïve, young, and not too clever, will it be this way forever?” And yet the song is clever; arranged for maximum impact and catchiness, while avoiding any intense visceral effect, the song easily sweeps you onto your feet. This is one of those songs that I am anxious to hear live in person (YouTube will not do the trick).
And now I feel I need to get on my soapbox – apologizes ahead of time.
I think it is only natural to compare bands, especially to those that came before them; musicians, like any kind of artist (really, like any person), are influenced by what came before them. However, I have grown tired of the lazy, trite comparisons that The Courteeners get with Oasis. Okay, both bands are from the greater Manchester area, and both have singers named “Liam,” and sure Oasis is one of their influences (and also share influences in common), but The Courteeners are also influenced by The Libertines, The Smiths and The Stone Roses (something rarely commented on), and not to mention that the band has none of the acerbic attitude of Oasis (I have never heard of any member of The Courteeners say about a rival band “Catch AIDS and die” (Noel Gallagher on members of Blur in “Melody Maker,” 1995.)) If you have made up your mind that these guys are re-packaged Oasis, then you have been taken in by a trite comparison and not really listening to this band for what they have to offer.
“Falcon” most definitely avoids that dreaded sophomore slump. The Courtneers have produced an album that is distinct from their debut, demonstrates more dynamics and craftsmanship, and really an amazing listening experience. And perhaps the new direction of the songs may take some of their original listeners by surprise, but it is a natural progression that is easy to fall into and has more to offer to others just discovering the band. And if this album garnishes the same success or outdoes that of the debut album, “St. Jude,” it will be in spite of the band, which by no means capitalizes on current mindless, pre-packaged indie pop. Great album, great experience – stop the faffing and take a listen.
1. The Opener
2. Take Over the World
3. Cross My Heart & Hope to Fly
4. You Overdid It Doll
6. Good Times Are Calling
7. The Rest of the World Has Gone Home
9. Cameo Brooch
10. Scratch Your Name Upon My Lips
11. Last of the Ladies
12. Will It Be This Way Forever?
Keep up with The Courteeners at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.
Here is their video for “You Over Did It Doll” from their MySpace Video page.
The Courteeners - You Overdid It Doll
The Courteeners | MySpace Music Videos