After a quiet couple of years, Rochdale rock n rollers Courteeners are back with a wad of new material packed into third album Anna. A lot of buzz surrounded these boys after they first clattered into the charts with St Jude in 2008. With an ear for a chorus and a penchant for lyrical wit, they were embraced by the public and music press alike, winning the Guardian’s inaugural First British Album Award in 2008. However their follow-up, 2010’s Falcon, didn’t quite achieve the same critical acclaim, nor live up to the expectations of most fans.
As is mostly the case with the ‘difficult second album’, bands often take time out to reconsider and redevelop things. So, after a three year gap since Falcon, the Courteeners are back with their third attempt, Anna. The one thing everyone is anxious to know, is whether Anna falls into St Jude or Falcon territory.
Anna opens with the familiar inquisitive-rock of Liam Fray. That is, his lyrics tend to pose questions, rather than form an endless stream of fuzzy lovestuff. The charming Manc asks Why Are You In Love With A Notion? In a similar drawl to Falcon’s Take Over The World.
Single Lose Control is definitely one of the strongest tracks, with the haunting “oohing” chorus and driving riff. The “oohs” and riffs seem to provide Courteeners with a good formula to build their songs, with Sharks Are Circling and Push Yourself falling under this category.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are tracks like Van Der Graff and Marquee, offering a mid-tempo, more easy listening pop-rock. Not in the sense of Coldplay or the likes (thank goodness), but more in the way of emulating Fray’s sensitivity enough to warrant a background track on an E4 teen drama.
The stand-out song of the record is Money. Again with the driving riff, it’s loud and in charge, and puts Courteeners back on top form. It will no doubt be an instantly-recognisable crowd hit in live shows and festivals throughout the summer.
In all, it’s clear Courteeners have grown as a band and are at the cliched point in their career of finally becoming comfortable in their sound. Whilst songs like In Love With A Notion fall into the territory of the much-panned album 2, there’s enough growth and variety on the record to get past the good-album/bad-album comparison. They may be using the tried and tested formula of catchy, made-for-stadium choruses, infectious riffs and witty lyrics, but who ever used that as a complaint against a lad-rock band?