I think I might have seen the Courteeners live, about seven years ago at a festival, and the fact that I can’t say for sure says a lot about my relationship with this record.
I think it might just be an age thing. If I’d been 15, rather than 30, when this record had been released, I might have loved it. It does sound quite a lot like the Britpop records that I played to death in the mid 1990s, and haven’t really listened to since. As it is, this record, and indeed the live show at T in the Park in 2010, if I actually saw it, and am not confusing them with various other second-string acts I saw early in the afternoon, just didn’t really make any impact on me.
I’m not sure that it’s objectively any worse a record than I Should Coco by Supergrass, which I loved when it came out. No actually, I’m going to stick to my guns and insist that I Should Coco was a much better record. Scratch that: It’s probably better than Dodgy’s Homegrown though, which I enjoyed well enough back in the day. It’s just that twenty-plus years on, I’m not hearing anything that makes it stand out. And I’ve no idea how it won the Guardian’s inaugural debut album award in 2008. Surely there were better first albums that year? (There were: As far as I’m concerned, if you think this is better than For Emma, Forever Ago then your ears have fallen off.)
Despite the cover art and the band name that suggest otherwise, itis very much pitched at the more laddish end of indie rock – think somewhere between Oasis and Kasabian – and it does seem to check pretty much every cliché of that genre. Nonsense lyrics? There’s a line in “No You Didn’t, No You Don’t” which I heard as“We were in the garage doing cheese.” When I looked up the actual lyrics and found it was not cheese but keys, I can’t help thinking that what I heard was better. Is ‘doing keys’ some yoof argot of which I’m unaware? Or is he just saying whatever comes into his head. Big choruses with lots of wooahs and woahhs in them that you can imagine encouraging fist-pumping on football terraces? More than you can shake a stick at. A couple of slow ballads with a bit of finger-picked electric guitar? Check.
It’s ok, but for me at least, it’s nothing more than that. Only Aftershow and You’re Not Nineteen Forever really stood out from the generic indie mulch and stayed with me. His voice is less irritating than, say Liam Gallagher’s (actually, Liam Fray sounds a bit like my brother, which is perhaps no surprise as it turns out he’s from about six or seven stops along the same branch line to Manchester that I grew up living next to). But there’s really nothing here to distinguish them from hundreds of other very similar indie bands that get afternoon slots at festivals. A sort of Shed Seven de no jours.
My problem is that, having got into the whole indie guitar rock thing a quarter of a century ago, there’s not much now that sounds really different to me. That really makes me pay attention. Or as Spitting Image put it over twenty years ago
“Haven’t You Heard This Song Before?
Jesus, it’s hard to be original
with only 12 notes in all the world.”
Highlights: Aftershow, You’re Not Nineteen Forever