Courteeners' third studio album Anna arrives two years after the band's Top Ten release Falcon. Recorded in Manchester’s Hertz Studios with producer Joe Cross (Hurts) the album is--according to frontman Liam Fray-- a " new chapter sonically for Courteeners. Our music, like our minds, has evolved and expanded. We have re-arrived - Welcome to the rave”.
Almost three years have elapsed since this Rochdale quartet released their second album, Falcon. A lot has happened in the indie world in that time, and something pretty peculiar has happened to The Courteeners as a result.
It’s like someone sent the band a memo saying that the 80s, synths and not being a lad are in. So after nibbling their nails to stumps, they grabbed a textbook and made a conscious decision to be up for owt.
Falcon was all about mid-paced, sing-along guitar tracks peppered with a rugged brand of Alex Turner-style lyrical drawling and a lot of swagger. The Turnerisms are intact here, but the swagger has diminished and the band has veered in a direction that feels tokenistic, prosaic and ultimately a bit futile.
Lead single Lose Control has a sound reverby guitar hook, but descends into some stadium rock piffle vaguely recalling Friendly Fires. But most of the tracks here are uncomplicated, anthemic by design – and at some points Liam Fray’s solid vocals succeed in lifting things that bit higher.
Marquee offers a stripped-back, almost festive acoustic sound, romantic northern patter smoothing the rough edges. It is, however, followed by the brutish and crude Money. Sample lyric: “Sit down and shut your mouth.”
Although they exhibit new, nostalgic tones not infrequently, The Courteeners remain a band to whom stadium glory seems an ultimate goal – most of these songs were written to be received on an epic live scale. The number of “woah” interludes borders on the bubonic.
But whether this is genetic or spasmodic, it becomes grating. That said, tallying up the “woah” outbursts does become a little addictive. It’s perhaps even fodder for a drinking game, should you be inclined to get absolutely hammered.
Not to be completely unkind, The Courteeners embrace lad rock but do challenge its mandate. ANNA is strategic in its experimentation, but represents a fairly dramatic departure from its makers’ brand, so hats off to that.
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