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The Courteeners - 'Concrete Love'
The Mancunian arena-fillers' follow-up to their best album won't win over the naysayers
Fray’s least of all, of course. “The charts are full of cartoons and lawyers having a gap year,” he declares on ‘Dreamers’, the inference being that his band are perched dignifiedly above such debasement. Yet much of ‘Concrete Love’ sounds less informed by the “dreamers and writers, risk-takers and fighters” he sings about than by well-known iconoclasts like Bastille and The 1975. You might be tempted to point the finger at producer Joe Cross, whose history with acts like Hurts and Chlöe Howl sits incongruously with a comparatively rough and ready group like The Courteeners, but his presence didn’t do ‘Anna’ any harm. The real problem is a lack of inspiration, perhaps a result of the speedy turnaround between this record and its predecessor: ‘Black & Blue’ is nondescript landfill-indie clatter, and for all its puff-chested braggadocio, the most notable thing about ‘International’ is the groan-inducing opening line (“You wanna talk about plucky?/ It’s like Mohammed Ali tag-teamed with Rocky”). ‘Summer’ stands out, but only because it sounds like a shameless manoeuvre to join all those soon-to-be lawyers on the Radio 1 playlist.
It’s a shame, because there’s always been more to The Courteeners than hot air, as demonstrated by the likes of ‘How Good It Was’ and ‘Beautiful Head’. Hot air alone doesn’t sustain the kind of fervent fanbase that The Courteeners have built up, and while they’ve never been terribly fashionable, they’ve always used that to their advantage, projecting a underdog siege mentality whilst simultaneously selling out arenas. ‘Concrete Love’, however, is nothing to beat their own drum about.
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