The Courteeners - St. Jude
Bill Cummings 22/04/2008
Manchester's The Courteeners are the latest in a long line of "hotly tipped" new indie pop acts. A band bourne of the post Arctic Monkeys sound: so predictably we have taut, fashionable new wave rhythms and sub Oasis pub rock dirges that go up blind alley ways. At the heart of it all is frontman Liam Fray, drawling like a drunk in a thick Mancunian accent about his troubles with women. That's the problem - at the spine of this album are a series of boorish, bitter poison pen letters to groupie ex-girlfriends, but these lyrics lack the wry eye of a Turner or even his way with a melody. What's more, if, like me you don't buy into Fray's swagger and put downs, then this album will be a tortuous experience indeed.
"I say things I probably should have forgotten about people and things but do you know who I am? I'm like a Morrissey with some strings" sings Fray on the band's previous rather dreary rock single "What Took You So Long." While he may delusionally compare his barbed story telling to the likes of Morrissey, Jarvis and John Cooper Clark, his vocals lack the wit, sensitivity and duality of any of these icons. In fact, the comparisons are frankly insulting. His vocal tone is so flat and repetitive that you wonder how people could bear it live. Only the vaguely Motown flecked "Please Don't" sees him experiment with a more pleasant high pitched tone in the manner of an early Ian Brown, but even this song lacks the Spectorish melodic presence of say a Glasvegas anthem.
Maschostic egotism flows like acid through the veins of tracks like the laughable "Cavorting" and "If It Wasn't For Me." It's all clunking band-on-the-road observations and viscious, distasteful lyrics, "You're an average girl with bad teeth," he barks on the latter "I'd like to stick a syringe in your eye." the final repeated phrase confirms the dillusion: "If it wasn't for me then you wouldn't know them/if it wasn't for me then you wouldn't know them." Only recent single "Not Nineteen For Ever," with its keening metallic riffs, tight disco rhythm and vaguely melancholic "the one that got away" chorus offer any kind of respite, but still the suspicion remains that at its heart this is a bitter song sung by someone without the ability to express how he really feels...
St Jude is the patron saint of lost causes, one can only hope that this is a fitting title for this album. They may be a popular live act, but so are Status Quo and similarly this is musically tired, derivative and boring. Vocally it reveals a rather odious streak of bitterness that echoes a distasteful sexism I've not experienced since the work of the 80s metal bands. Pathetic.