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What Took You So Long?!
on 26 February 2010
The Courteeners were certainly at the tail end of the libertines wave with debut St. Jude - an attempt to make jangling indie pop stadium sized, with mixed success at best. Songs such as 'Fallowfield Hillbilly' seem to be in the distant past now though, as Liam Fray and company have tightened up and with a little help from Ed Buller have produced an album of truly gargantuan propotions. Strings, Delay Pedals and Melancholy are all plentiful, and throughout there are obvious comparisons to U2, Coldplay or fellow mancunians Elbow. Fray's voice in particular is much better and compliments the overall sound, which clearly has a more practiced band at the heart.
1) The Opener: A lyrically unsubtle song about Manchester, with a melody as good as any on St. Jude. Might have expected a larger song for, well, an opener, but that it isn't shows how the band have progressed. 7/10
2) Take Over The World: A string laden Anthemic tune which unfortunately, despite the skyscraper-sized guitars, seems just the wrong side of a Take That tribute, or at best Embrace. Still, even casual fans will no doubt adore this live (if indeed casual Courteeners fans exist). 5/10
3) Cross My Heart and Hope to Fly: Initially a free download that marked a very different direction for Falcon, and a darker side that was definitely exciting to hear. Gloomy 'woah-oh's and staccato piano build up an atmosphere, but the song itself is probably one of the weaker on the album. 6/10
4) You Overdid It Doll: The title's daft, but definitely worthy of being lead single off the album. Sounds like New Order's bigger, angrier brother, adding some much needed vigour to all the thoughtfulness in the album. 9/10
5) Lullaby: This perhaps personifies the new look Courteeners. A Piano led ballad full of more sorrow than Fray has been able to transfer before, we can see now that the Courteeners, like the best of Manchester, are here to make you *feel*. 8/10
6) The Good Times Are Calling: The closest we get to a St Jude era song, being essentially a friendly indie pop song, but delivered with superior musicianship and more subtle vocals. A nice departure then from Coldplay/ Elbow analogies. 8/10
7) The Rest of the World Has Gone Home: Essentially an acoustic Liam Fray song, again perhaps a hark back to earlier days when it was just Fray and his guitar. Pleasant enough, perhaps should have been a b-side though (albeit a good one). 6/10
8) Sycophant: Possible single? By this point we know the formula, Coldplay given abit more energy, but not sacrificing the melancholy. Liam certainly nails his vocals, and lyrically this is one of the stronger efforts. 9/10
9) Cameo Brooch: The Chorus is very predictable with comforting lyrics, but we can't take anything away from this slow song, probably the strongest tune on the album. The verse certainly isn't comforting, yet the melodies compliment each other very nicely as does the loud/quiet dynamic, and the production is spot on - Buller has done well not to whack on an orchestra onto the track as must have been tempting. Jason Pierce (Spiritualized) would be jealous. 10/10
10) Scratch My Name Upon Your Lips: The album finally gets some much needed rock n roll. In terms of sound its not unlike the towering 'Cavorting', but good as that song is, there is much more depth here so it doesn't feel out of place. Subdued vocals work very well in conjunction with those dark 'woah-oh's we should be familiar with by now. Another fine effort. 9/10
11) Last of the Ladies: Doesn't really bring anything new to the table, a piano ballad that just needs a little something extra lyrically to bring it up to the same standard as the other songs here. The New Order reference in particularly seems just abit too immature for Falcon. 5/10
12) Will It Be This Way Forever?: Dark and heavier than elsewhere but of course not bereft of strings and piano. As track 12 it works not because its a natural closer (may indeed have been a better opener), but because it is uniquely the Courteeners. No other band around could create this song. 9/10
No doubt the album will bring about criticisms from those who wanted St. Jude part II (those so inclined should listen to the Second Folio CD of the Deluxe edition - not bad but all too stagnant). Its long been time for bands to abandon the good ship Albion and her Jam-Come-La's indie. The Courteeners, whilst they may not have produced the finest album ever, have certainly come along way and silenced critics who branded them as just another lad rock band without losing their identity, and that is praise for any band.
Now a THIRD album, that could be the one...