The second album from The Courtneys finds the band pretty much as we left them back in 2013, but this time they have the bonus of being signed to the indie-tastic label Flying Nun.
To be perfectly honest, progression is not really something anyone really requires from The Courtneys. All that’s really needed from the trio of Courtney Loove (guitar) Sydney Koke (bass) and Jen Twynn Payne (drums and vocals) is a clutch of songs that make the world seem slightly less shit.
Thankfully a few ramshackle songs shot through with a pop aesthetic is often enough to lift the spirits, and if there’s something that The Courtneys do well it’s writing songs that possess a sunkissed, slightly wonky charm. There’s also a sense of nostalgia wrapped up in their work, not just in the subject matter of their lyrics (which occasionally touch on classics of cinema) but also in their straight-up, simple songs.
There are no frills with The Courtneys, they pretty much sound like they turn up, plug in, and zip through some cheery tunes. For a band with such a simplistic approach, they manage to embody a raft of influences in their songs. It’s possible to hear surf rock in the tone of Loove’s guitar, but there’s also the simplistic but effective guitar attack of Lou Reed in there too. The band manages to combine the bubbly punk of Shonen Knife, ’60s pop, scratchy late ’80s indie, garage band aesthetics and a fizzing grunge feel (before grunge discovered heroin) and in doing so, they’ve come up with a set of songs that is practically impossible not to fall in love with.
It might sound a little amateur in places, but there’s a joy here that’s undeniable. Take Lost Boys as an example, It worships at the altar of the ’80s vampire movie with blind devotion. Not only does it consider a relationship with a never-ageing vampire who is stuck in ’80s goth fashion (1986 specifically) but also throws a cunning reference to Gerard McMann’s theme tune Cry Little Sister and wraps it all up in a chorus that sticks in the brain like a stake delivered by the Frog Brothers.
Mars Attacks hints at sci-fi attack, but is actually a fairly dainty affair that somehow brings together a sense of melancholy and a wave of positivity. That it calls to mind Kathleen Hanna’s habit of writing songs that sound like cheerleader chants is a considerable bonus too.
Essentially this is an album packed with genuine nuggets of pop gold. Tour chugs along, driven by a relentless rhythm as the band relates the experience of travelling across a sunbaked country. It might take a long time and there might be a lot of repetition, but there’s no containing the excitement of the open road. Silver Velvet, the song that opens the album, squalls into life with a burst of feedback and a buttoned down bass pulse. “The day is getting shady” sings Twynn Payne before launching into a chorus that seems to be talking about the emotional outburst of new love and providing the light to banish the shade of her day. Even a song about loss and winter snow (Minnesota) ends up sounding like a chunk of pop genius.
The Courtneys don’t do anything complicated, and they’ve barely evolved in the three years since their last album, but their formula works so well that it would be madness to change a thing. In a world that seems to be getting more confusing, complicated and bizarre, it’s a delight to have a band that provides simple, uplifting pop music. Hopefully we won’t be waiting too long for the next instalment.