When I first heard of Courteeners, way back in 2006, I’m afraid to say I dismissed them for another derivative Mancunian band aspiring to be Oasis but coming up short. I never bothered much with their debut album, St Jude, which was released in 2008. The album was actually pretty successful, earning the band a Guardian music award and a couple of top twenty hits. For me, ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ was an unwelcome earworm, drilling its way into my head with no chance of escape. With the release of second album, Falcon, in 2010, the band moved on to headlining Manchester Arena and selling out gigs in less than an hour, so clearly quite a few people out there felt differently to me. Third album, Anna, came out in 2013, spiking at number 6 in the charts. However, when I heard the band’s fourth album, Concrete Love, was being released, I felt compelled to put myself forward, for nothing more than to satisfy my curiosity and see whether they (or I) have matured since the heady days of the early 2000s; I wasn’t actually disappointed.
As a whole, the album feels more grown up than previous offerings; the sound is bigger, stadium-esque; the production is impactful yet smooth and feels simply, but well done. It sounds more like an album that could tip them over from successful indie band to mainstream Radio 1 playlist botherer. Time is yet to tell whether indie is going to continue its recent reign in the mainstream – Radio 1 seems to have been overtaken by dance and R&B – but should it poke its head above the parapet once more, I don’t see why Courteeners couldn’t find further future success.
The album starts off with a simply great track, ‘White Horses’. It’s a confident kick off, heralding a seemingly more dynamic horizon for the band. It would sound great as a single, with its crunching guitars breaking down in a way reminiscent of Foals’ excellent track, ‘Inhaler’. The song is immediately one I want to return to and piques my interest for the next ten tracks.
Second up, ‘How Good It Was’, is classic Courteeners, briefly transporting me back to upstairs at the Academy in 2007; but it’s still a more defined sound than their earlier offerings. There’s just something about singer Liam Fray’s accent and tone that finds its way into the forefront of my mind: “even if it’s over, please remember” sounds so appealing.
‘Small Bones’ slows things down, with the introduction of a brass section. The lyrics are not sophisticated, but the sentimental charm of the song is irrefutable. ‘Has He Told You That He Loves You Yet’ isn’t one of the best – I can’t help but skip through it on the second listen; likewise ‘International’ passes me by.
Later tracks, ‘Summer’ and ‘Saboteur’ bring in a new phase of the album. ‘Summer’ is relentlessly upbeat, somehow sun-drenched, with a decent dash of crashing cymbals, tinkling of the ivories and a funky bass line. ‘Saboteur’ draws me back down to earth with dirtier, deeper guitar riffs and deconstructed vocals.
The album is released on Monday 18 August, the same date that Simon Cowell has announced his Britain’s Got Talent winner, Collabro’s album will hit the shelves. Speaking to the Daily Star, singer Liam Fray announced, “[Simon Cowell] will sell a million units and a proper band will be left in the wings. They will be No.1 next week”. If you don’t believe in the power of Cowell, why not go out and pick up a copy of Concrete Love and listen to a band who’ve hit their groove. Now, I’m going to go listen to Anna and see how it compares.
Reviewer: Jennifer Westmoreland