There comes a time in every lad rocker’s life when they want to burst out of the shackles they’ve constricted themselves with (principally Fred Perry shirts and 21st century mullets). And what with the never-ending Oasis comparisons and the view held by a good few that they’re just a bunch of beer-swelling numpties, The Courteeners are no exception to the rule.
So it’s hardly surprising that when NME encounters the Mancunian quartet’s latest album ‘Falcon’ we find that their sound has matured musically somewhat from 2008’s ‘St Jude’ with Liam Fray striving to become a reputable singer-songwriter in his own mould and on his own terms.
But whether or not it’s a sound that will take flight (if you’ll excuse the pun) and propel The Courteeners out of the ladrock chamber of horrors of their own making remains to be seen.
If the first track off the album is an indication for what’s to follow then it’s safe to say that ‘Falcon’ is about some bird (and I’m not talking about the chirping kind). A longing cry to a girl where, over twinkling keys and an acoustic guitar, Fray promises: “My heart is here/Here to stay”. Bless.
‘Take Over The World’
Thank goodness song titles are by-and-large threats and nothing more. Because if this song were to take us all on we’d be doomed. Not that there isn’t some merit to be garnered from the hopeful opening and resolute guitars on this track. But the schmaltz of certain lyrics (“I’ve never written a cliché before/I’ll probably never do so/She was beautiful though”) can be a bit too much.
‘Cross My Heart And Hope To Fly’
If X-Factor were to exist solely to champion the crooners of the world then Liam Fray would be the overriding winner every year. So mellow and soothing is his northern twang on this sultry number, with its infectiously catchy chorus, mimicked Motown girl-group handclaps, electro-sounding strings and a sultry guitar riff that hankers back to the forlorn longing of The xx.
‘You Overdid It Doll’
A very eighties-sounding tune, that’s two parts disco and one part sleazy electro. ‘Let’s Dance’-era Bowie guitars and a vocal that Tony Hadley would be proud of.
Following in the same eighties vein as the previous song, what with the dented drum beat bedding the track and the echoed vocals of Fray. Sweet in sentiment but nothing more.
‘The Good Times Are Calling’
An ethereal opening that hears Fray sing with a choral refrain backed by the fuzz of a simple guitar riff and punctured later with a defensive drum beat.
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‘The Rest Of The World Has Gone Home’
An alt.folkish feel to this one. A far more simpler and seductive offering from the album. This track sees Fray and a solitary acoustic guitar keep each other warm as he swoons, “What should I do now?/I am all alone/The rest of he world has gone home”.
The potential ‘rock’ number with its chugging guitars that just falls short of having a bit of bite with Fray’s melodic chorus. What does work in this track’s favour is the element of camaraderie it will surely command in the pit with its punctuated guitar strums and Fray’s determined vocal delivery.
Possessing a similar melancholic feel as ‘The Rest Of The World Has Gone Home’, this track is plumped up with some muted Delia Derbyshire-esque keys and some rather unsettling lyrics depicting child abuse.
‘Scratch Your Name Upon My Lips’
Could this be Fray’s homage to Terence Trent D’Arby’s ‘Sign Your Name Across My Heart’? Alas, no. This one does pick up the pace a little, though. There’s an urgency here that is missing from the rest of the album, but vocally Fray is still imitating singing personalities of yore. This one is definitely in keeping with the rest of the album’s electronic slant. There’s a chorus here that’s catchy, but it’s just not stadium-worthy.
‘Last Of The Ladies’
A subdued track with some soft, sentimental keys. Fray does that crooning thing about a girl. You get the picture already.
‘Will If Be This Way Forever’
If there was ever a track to confirm that The Courtneers were steering away from lad-rock, then it would be this super-charged electro, disco number with a touch of the bombast of an Ennio Morricone score. Just lay off the talk of “Chinese chippies” in the future, eh Liam?