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Askew Review 15

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THE COURTEENERS- St. Jude (Site) The last part of the excellent BBC documentary Seven Ages of Rock focuses on the best British Indie bands of the past 25 years, starting with the Smiths and stopping off along the way at Oasis, the Libertines and Arctic Monkeys, among others. It’s powerful good stuff. Had this Rock Doc been made a year or so later, the Courteeners would’ve surely closed it out on a monumentally high note. And I’m guessing the band may be in agreement with me, having scrawled the title of that episode, What The World Is Waiting For, on the backdrop of a photo shoot they recently did for Q Magazine. (This is also the title of a Stone Roses single, so maybe they were actually referring to that. But who the fuck knows?). Very brash, indeed, but can they back this sort of swagger up? Unequivocally: Yes. 
  This young band from Manchester fills me with a joy I haven’t felt in a long time, and debut release St. Jude hearkens back to a time when albums ruled from start to finish. Frontman Liam Fray writes deadly real, energy-infusing songs that get better and better with each listen. The lyrics are sharp, cocky and, surprisingly, at times even quite vulnerable, and Fray’s sandpaper-meets-molasses Manc-accented vocals are compelling as fuck.  There are a bunch of standouts, including “Acrylic,” which for some odd reason is hidden deep at the end of this disc as a bonus track (it was originally released as the band’s first single, so maybe that’s why), sums up a lot of what I like about the Courteeners. It’s a cracking good, grooving rant about see-through bands, and it gorgeously bridges the great British Indie sound of the ‘80s with a modern twist. “Not Nineteen Forever” is smoothly anthemic and is an insightful look at the need to grow up despite not wanting to. “What Took You So Long” is possibly the best track here- great guitar band rock that builds to a full on, ass-kickin’ chorus. It also contains a line- “I’m like a Morrissey with some strings”- that brilliantly sums up Fray and his mates. It’s obvious they’ve been influenced by fellow Mancunians The Smiths, but they’ve managed to create a sound that’s still very much their own. “Cavorting” and “Bide Your Time” are examples of this sound:  rollicking, frankly critical and incredibly fun to sing along with despite (or maybe because of) their snottiness. The spiky but sweet acoustic ballad “Yesterday, Today & Probably Tomorrow” is an unflinching look at how things change with time, and it ends the standard portion of this release beautifully. St. Jude is, quite simply, one of my favorites of this millennium. –Ben Hunter




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