‘The kings of unremarkable reclaim their throne’
The Courteeners have pulled another massive half-an-album out the bag and that’s all it is. The kings of unremarkable, managing to nail their reputation of producing half an album you can sing along to with drunken mates and the other half you have only heard when accidentally leaving your playlist on shuffle, have done it again.
Celebrating 10 years as a band this year, The Courteeners released their 5th studio album ‘Mapping the Rendezvous’ after 2 years in the making, front-man Liam Fray revealed. The atmosphere around the release of this album was apprehensive, fans are known to defend the band till the very end and accept no criticism whatsoever- even if its deserved- but even some admitted of their low hopes after the singles were released. Listening through the full album, it wasn’t as bad as some might have thought but it certainly wasn’t as good.
Whilst you find a good track on the album like ‘The 17th’, which features great vocals and slick sounding pop instrumentals, it gets cancelled out by a terrible single like ‘Kitchen’. Yes, the single, ‘Kitchen’ to whom Liam Fray himself tweeted as one of the tracks he was most proud of and has revealed he doesn’t know what the fuck it’s about. Neither do we. Its instrumentals are reminiscent of a Texan David Bowie tribute band and upon first listen I could not distinguish it from Hannah Montana’s ‘Hoedown Throwdown’. The lyrics itself do not even save this song, repeating ‘there’s too much love in this kitchen to go to bed’ in between banjo solos and images of Liam Fray in some flannel shirt and flared trousers, (admittedly only in my head).
What this album does well is it reflects this new direction the band is going. As previously mentioned ‘The 17th’ features great vocals and a smooth sound. This single received criticism at first by fans who expected a more guitar-rock-St-Jude sound but it has become one of the stand out singles, one that will surely be kept on their tour set list. ‘No One Will Ever Replace Us’ is a very Courteeners track, one you can imagine belting out amongst a festival crowd with its ballad-like chorus and simple lyrics although it inspires a boring live performance. This song is one of the strongest on the album, which
doesn’t say a lot about it but it seems to be a fan favourite.
The fourth single ‘De La Salle’ is a confusing one, I can’t hate it but I certainly can’t love it. With lyrics like ‘did Jesus ever get detention?’ and ‘did Joan of Arc ever slip and slice her thumb chopping onions in double home economics?’, it begs out to be made fun of. Despite this, the thing I like about this one is the orchestrated instrumentals and the melody. Had Fray released this on any previous album then it wouldn’t get a second look but it fits perfectly as a midpoint between ‘The 17th’ and ‘No One Will Ever Replace Us’, a link between their old and new sound. ‘Kitchen’ is just unjustifiable.
The opening track ‘Lucifer’s Dreams’ is a strong start to their fifth studio album. With its Joy Division-esque sound and heavy build up to a pop chorus, Radio One will be happy. ‘Lucifer’s Dreams’ is one of the highlights of the album lyrically, perhaps rivalled by 3 songs at most, and is complimented by a futuristic outro that wouldn’t look out of place on a Kasabian record. ‘Tip Toes’ is best described as a fusion of a The Cure and The Fratellis B-side. The instrumentals are simple with a constant drum beat throughout and a repeated guitar riff that pops up now and again after Frays echoed verses come to an end. This track best describes the album, nothing remarkable but it will do (the attitude the Courteeners have held arguably for the past 6 years when recording music).
This album did not push the Courteeners in a total new direction musically. ‘Not for Tomorrow’ is one of the throwbacks to Liam Fray’s older styles of song writing, where it is obvious it has been written to sound good live. This is not necessarily a bad thing though as it does sound like it would be good live. Its faced paced guitar and frequent solos that are just waiting to be sang back to the band make this a dark horse of a song, it may not be the obvious favourite but nobody would argue with you if you admitted it at 3am in some kitchen of a house party- if theres not too much love in there anyway.
The Courteeners haven’t left their reputation of producing half an album then filling the rest of it with whatever is left over. ‘Finest Hour’ is a perfect example of this, it is just lazy in my opinion. Even Fray’s vocals sound like he isn’t willing to try and it is clear he wrote this one beside a rhyming dictionary with a lack of passion, to which he brought with him into the recording studio. The only conclusion I drew from this song is that it is probably named after how long it took him to write and record the whole song- but it wasn’t the finest hour at all. ‘Most Important’ could be the exact same song, it is so boring and unoriginal. I am sure I have heard this song on many late-00′s indie albums
and I wouldn’t be surprised if Fray just chucked it in out of sheer lack of interest in this record. The lack of passion and excitement just makes the listener react the same way.
Uninspiring lyrics seem to be the theme of this album, as well as using titles half the fans cannot pronounce correctly and ‘The Dilettante’ is no different. Fray really hits home with this one that he is from Manchester, which usually features dominantly on all their albums but this time he is singing about wanting to get away from it all. Miley Cyrus may not be the only one presenting the ‘lads’ with a court case as the intro to this track is identical to the one of ‘Bubblegum’ by the Mystery Jets. This album reeks of unoriginality and averageness, so does my range of adjectives.
It seems like I am repeating myself describing these songs but nothing outstanding is produced on this record. If it isn’t totally boring, then it is only the catchy chorus that save it and if the lyrics aren’t totally cringe-worthy then its only because I am aware of Liam Fray’s personality and let him off.
‘Modern Love’ is ‘Lucifer’s Dreams’ main competition lyrically and the keys and guitar aren’t half bad either. In fact, the only criticism I have of this song is the awkward speaking part from Fray before the last chorus but even that Is saved by the fun build up to the climax of the song. This song most reminded me of ‘Not Nineteen Forever’, I hate comparing bands work to their most popular song but it is justified here, as that song too is produced well to build up the listener’s excitement to the climax. ‘Modern Love’ should have been placed higher on the track listing but if that’s one of the only criticisms you can find then it must be a good listen.
The fifth studio album from the Manchester band The Courteeners is nothing special, it is boring and average and I can’t even make its critical description sound interesting. Take ‘Finest Hour’ and ‘Most Important’ as examples of the uninspiring sound they have produced. The heavy and catchy pop sounds in ‘The 17th’ and ‘Modern Love’ can’t even save this record from criticism even from their own diehard fan base. Dubbed the ‘band of the people’ by fans who obviously do not know what that means exactly, this band will continue to sell out gigs charging £50 a ticket (the band of what kind of people exactly?) but they will never progress in great feats musically or gain a huge load of
respect in the music industry. The kings of unremarkable reclaim their throne.