The Moz-approved Manchester band’s second LP is distinctive and impressive.
Chris Roberts 2010-02-17
Forget preconceptions of boorish Manc laddishness – Morrissey’s championing of this fast-rising band is beginning to make sense. Two years on from their top five debut St. Jude, Liam Fray and his Middleton homeboys present an album to seal their role as the Stereoasisphonics-lookalikes that it’s okay to like. These are strong, conventional songs full of clever flicks and feints, deliciously produced by Ed (Suede, Pulp, White Lies) Buller. That Fray’s savvy, gritty-funny lyrics will be compared to Alex Turner’s just emphasises that arch couplets are so rare in pop today that we only have one reference point outside Moz himself.
Most tracks bounce at a comfortable mid-pace, ensuring maximum sing-along factor, and perhaps Falcon flags before its end. Yet Buller ensures that even the most throwaway boast cunning builds and kinks, and Fray’s narratives compel you to hear the rest of the story. By now you’ll know radio favourite You Overdid It Doll, its mildly cautionary tale of “a space cadet dressed in fibre glass” driven by a catchy rhythmic motif that’s curiously reminiscent of Rod Stewart’s critically unassailable classic D’ya Think I’m Sexy? If that wasn’t enough for white-trash-disco fans, Blondie’s Heart of Glass is later name-checked by the boys.
Don’t be misled, though: this remains ‘indie-rock’, albeit tanned and tarted-up like one of the girls on a night out in Fray’s songs. Yes, Arctic Monkeys would be the closest thing – somewhere between Favourite Worst Nightmare and Humbug – but there are enough musical flourishes and pining ballads to earn the band the Elbow comparisons they blatantly desire. (To show they’ve got, you know, soul.) It’s hard to resent their straining when they do it with this muscular elegance.
Maybe these songs lose their everyman anthem cred when Fray lurches into second album clichés of the poor-me-the-rock-god-missing-my-bird-cos-I’m-on-the-road-beating-off-groupies-with-a-stick variety. And the would-be showstopper Last of the Ladies, is plain soppy. But at its best – Cross My Heart & Hope to Fly, Scratch Your Name Upon My Lips, the reflective The Rest of the World Has Gone Home, the heated Sycophant – this is distinctive and impressive. Falcon will set The Courteeners soaring.