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The Courteeners - 'You Overdid It Doll'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:09 UK time, Friday, 12 February 2010

The Courteeners

When you get right down to it, which is more important to the people in an indie band: to be loved by a lot of fans now, or held up as an example of greatness by music critics in years to come? You can't have both, see - with certain notable exceptions - and the answer is probably not as straightforward as it may seem.

It's a dilemma which does not occur in any other field of music. Metal bands would plump for the fans without even stopping to think about it. Dance music doesn't tend to exist in the same part of the brain as the written word in any case, so both sides tend to leave each other well alone. And pop acts are well used to critical barbs from rocksnobs, having had to suffer years of deadening prose about the vacuous nature of their day job, which always seems to include a reference to wet knickers, even though a) it's a massively tired old cliche and b) srsly...ICK.

But indie bands can always point back to a band like the Velvet Underground. Unappreciated in their time, except for a few hipsters here and there, and yet massively influential on music ever since. Secretly, every indie band dreams that this also applies to them, even though they sound like Oasis and can fill an arena in nine minutes flat. It's all about taking your place in The Pantheon, maan.

(Here's the video. Dancing lady drops her homework in the subway.)

The Courteeners are a perfect example of this dilemma. They started off sounding like the Libertines, picked up an Arctic Monkeys swagger along the way, and now they've had a pop makeover so they sound like Reverend & the Makers playing 'Take Me Out' by Franz Ferdinand. This is the kind of thing a music critic lives to point out. I should know, I just did it and then highfived myself.

Turns out, no-one really cares about these associations. If a song flies, it flies. Owl City sound like the Postal Service, and there are outraged Ben Gibbard fans all over the world spitting blood and fire all over their PC screens about it. Didn't stop it going to No.1, did it?

This song is picking up friends in unusual places, mainly because it doesn't try too hard to impress. It has a quiet swagger, a menacing leer, and proves that dark disco suits scratchy indie bands better than a tatty old trilby hat. It won't alter the critical consensus on the band, but I imagine they and their legions of fans are just going to have to learn how to live with this awful affliction in the best way they can.

Four starsDownload: Out now
CD Released: March 8th
BBC Music page

(Fraser McAlpine)

PS: I'm not attempting to elevate the role of the music critic here. It's only the academic world of indie that thinks enough of itself to worry about what the experts may think.



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