In a sentence:
Continuing to build on their recently discovered dance/rock aesthetic, Courteeners’ sixth album ‘More. Again. Forever.’ will at least please the die-hards.
It’s been well over a decade since Manchester-based Courteeners released their debut album St. Jude, a focussed if overly slick collection featuring the unmistakable hit ‘Not Nineteen Forever’, and straight away they managed to develop a reputation that has attracted both admiration and derision, one which they’ve never quite shaken off. The expression “lad rock” seems to have been invented especially, and perhaps derogatorily, for bands like Courteeners. As it happens, if you were to type their name into the Twitter search bar, you would be guaranteed to come across the phrase “Dark Fruits” within 60 seconds.
Is any of this relevant though? Ultimately, what does it say
about Courteeners themselves? If anything, it merely affirms that Liam Fray and
co. have a very specific, tightly-knit, yet extremely loyal fanbase, who stick
with them through thick and thin, eagerly anticipating any new releases and
welcoming them with open arms. And when it comes to More. Again. Forever.
the reception has been no different.
This is nonetheless surprising, considering that their previous effort, 2016’s Mapping The Rendezvous, marked a discernible change in style, embracing a dance-rock aesthetic through which the band attempted to broaden their horizons. Furthermore, this approach has bled over onto this release, with tunes such as ‘Heart Attack’ and ‘Previous Parties’, despite sounding uncannily similar to each other, being built upon fuzzy, danceable guitar riffs that would undoubtedly go down a storm in the live arena.
The diverse nature of Mapping The Rendezvous has also
been carried over here. A prime example would be the intriguing sitar effects
during the pre-chorus of lead single ‘Heavy Jacket’, a track
that certainly constitutes one of the record’s more memorable moments, despite
leaving a sense that something is lacking, probably due to the chorus merely
consisting of the lyric “Heavy jacket, heavy jacket, heavy jacket, come on”
repeated numerous times.
Nevertheless, it’s where the band take a stab at more
heartfelt material that the album’s highlights lie, specifically the one-two
punch of ‘Better Man’
and ‘Hanging Off Your Cloud’. The former is a Decemberists-esque, mandolin-led
slice of indie-pop that feels like a breath of fresh air, its comparatively
stripped-down arrangements contrasting with the overproduction with which the
rest of the album is mildly tainted, whereas the latter is a strings-laden
piano ballad that would almost definitely have achieved chart success 15 years
ago. Whilst neither are necessarily ground-breaking works of art, they fundamentally
serve as a reminder that Courteeners are not a purely one-dimensional guitar
Other moments worth mentioning are the title track, with its
groovy bassline and new wave-inspired chorus, and the energetic ‘Take It On The
Chin’, which effectively combines the band’s post-punk revival roots with an
infectious pop sensibility and moderately humorous lyricisms, such as “I’d
rather be in the dentist’s chair with Sir Paul Gascoigne in the summer of ‘96”.
The only apparent lowlight is the damp squib that is ‘One Day At A Time’, with
its generic chord progression that one would expect from a James deep cut.
More. Again. Forever. is sufficiently experimental to
keep the die-hards on their toes, though almost certainly not enough to convert
the haters. It has one foot in the past and one in the present, and when you’ve
got such a dependable fanbase backing you up, there’s no reason to believe that
this is not a winning formula. (6/10) (George McKenna)
Listen to More. Again. Forever. by Courteeners here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: Courteeners, Daniel Moores, George McKenna, Ignition, Liam Fray, Michael Campbell, More. Again. Forever.
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