Album Reviews

The Courteeners – St Jude

(A&M) UK release date: 7 April 2008

Sweat engulfed chaos caused by a loud-mouthed Manc named Liam and his band The Courteeners. Sounds familiar. Small venues crammed to crumbling point as anticipation built up for the last six months leading to the release of St Jude. Finally, we have a copy firmly in our grasp.

With heights set as high as two other legendary bands in the northern city in the shape of Oasis and the Stone Roses, it seems that front man Liam Fray is setting himself up for a dramatic fall and a serious reality check. In December, he told us “Nothing came out of Manchester for 10 years, it needs a kick start and we are leading the way.” It was either brave or stupid.

Just like the Arctic Monkeys, their profile was raised through word of mouth, self promoting and constant low key gigging. Their first ever headlining tour at the end of 2007 sold out in no time, as did their current tour which coincides with the release of their debut record. But will the album live up to the expectation generated from their live performances? Producer Stephen Street, who has worked with the likes of Blur, The Smiths and Kaiser Chiefs clearly thinks so.

The debate and interest surrounding this album was always going to reach bubbling point considering the claims of Fray. The kids are divided – to one, they are a band with courage, a band who are prepared to take the indie-pop infested industry by the scruff of the neck. The status quo desperately needs rudely disturbing – something not done since arguable The Libertines. To others – the grit-rockers are just another average band that will be unable to live up to the hype. Either way, it’s set up for an intriguing tussle.

Aftershow firmly sets the tone straight from the off. Following a gentle four-note guitar strum, the drums come charging in and we are well away. Welcome to St Jude. The frantic, short-sharp aggressive pace continues into Cavorting, quickly followed by Bide Your Time. But The Courteeners aren’t all about loud, multi-layered, snappy tunes. Have a quick flick through the lyric booklet and it would seem the front man also has something quite constructive to say. In recent years, indie music has turned into frilly, feathery, sing-a-long tunes – with all the hooks and hum hum hums in all the right places – lyrics have taken a back seat. But just like Doherty and Turner, it would appear that the loud-mouthed Liam Fray is capable of scribbling down some damn good, meaningful words.

How Come even offers us a tender edge delivered with a top singing voice. The man who has already verbally attacked both The Enemy and Hard-Fi shows that he has a softer inner self during Kings Of The New Road: “I loved you, I still do, I probably always will do,” whilst Please Don’t explores the emotional trauma of separation. Yesterday, Today and Probably Tomorrow offers us the solo acoustic genius of Fray – after all, it’s where it all began. Not Nineteen Forever is probably the highlight of the album, a nostalgic reminder of why we got excited about this band in the first place, followed by several tracks of seemingly pointless silence, before we are treated to Acrylic.

This is perhaps not the classic Definitely Maybe has become, but with their army of live followers accumulated since Christmas, combined with that ready made clear charisma and cocky confidence – if anyone can revive Manchester, it is the Courteeners. They’re here for the music, the thing that they love.

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More on The Courteeners
The Courteeners – Anna
The Courteeners – Falcon
The Courteeners – St Jude
The Courteeners @ Leadmill, Sheffield
Interview: The Courteeners