Courteeners are not only one of the indie scene’s survivors, but one of its thrivers. Where other bands that had bigger hits and higher peaks have fallen by the wayside, the Mancunians have maintained a high standard and gained swathes of new fans in the last decade. Can’t say that about many guitar bands.
That’s not to cast them as plucky underdogs though, as we are all well aware of the mythology and acrid, brightly-coloured smoke that comes with the juggernaut that is the Courteeners live show. Their energetic bangers and diehard supporters have been a recipe for unprecedented success in the festival fields, and it’s hard to see their momentum coming to a halt any time soon.
That fact is probably a huge reason why on new album ‘More. Again. Forever.’, as they did to some extent on their previous effort (2016’s ‘Mapping the Rendezvous), they’ve taken some brave experimental leaps away from their tried and true sound.
Even braver is that they front-load a lot of the risky material into the first few tracks- leaving more familiar-sounding tracks like mental health anthem ‘Take It On The Chin’ to the second half. Liam Fray and co have certainly got some cojones to put the attention of the hardcore into jeopardy- but it was worth it.
The swagger of ‘Heart Attack’ and the viral infectiousness of ‘Heavy Jacket’ get the ball rolling fast, but it’s the title track that is the real surprise. Frontman Fray’s Baxter Dury-esque spoken word vocals and the mad funkiness of it all is a little much to wrap your head around at first, but once you let it swill around your head for a bit longer it’s impossible to stop yourself getting an embarrassing groove on.
Despite their brash reputation, Courteeners are no strangers to a sweeter tune, and Liam Fray is more introspective than ever before on ‘More. Again. Forever’. The gentle winding catchiness of ‘Better Man’ and the orchestral beauty of ‘Hanging Off Your Cloud’ are attention-grabbing, but it’s the gorgeous female backing vocals courtesy of new pianist Elina Lin on ‘One Day At A Time’ that create the most spellbinding moments on the record.
It’s so brilliant (and long overdue) to see more and more indie bands with female members, and it’s no surprise that a lot of them are doing very well for themselves compared to those who would rather be stuck in the past.
‘More. Again. Forever’ is ballsy and overall really enjoyable. I suppose the real acid test for the success of this record is how many of these tracks make it onto the revered Courteeners setlist. Hopefully the fans embrace the ideas presented here, because as music fans we should encourage artists to always be trying new things.