We caught The Courteeners on an early tour at the Sugarmill and thought they were going places, but while they’re making a good living, they’ve never taken off as we thought they might. “Lad rock” is too harsh but they never matched the sound they had in singer Liam Fray’s head. You can see the pattern of their success in the tour dates: 10,000 capacity venues in the north, 1,500 capacity venues in the south.
This new album is the best they’ve put out: a tighter sound and in places on a par with fellow Mancunians Man Made, whose debut slice of indie rock is one of our albums of the year.
We’d heard a single and were expecting quality, so weren’t deterred with opener Lucifer’s Dreams, which mixes formulaic Courteeners with psychedelia but Kitchen is much better, a crisp indie classic that bounces along, a bit funky and a bit punky. Also good is the equally bouncy Tip Toes and Not For Tomorrow.
They slip a little with the swaggering No One Will Ever Replace Us and a couple of tracks, notably Most Important, the (mistitled) Finest Hour and De La Salle slip into Courteeners by numbers — the reason they’ve playing venues that are 10 times smaller in the south. We’d guess the weak songs are written as guaranteed fan-pleasers but the better songs leave the clichés behind.
Map the route to the shopping basket: