The Courteeners – Mapping The Rendezvous

The Courteeners are a four piece band hailing from Manchester and have been given the dreaded task of being the 21st century flag bearers of the now infamous Manchester music scene. They can now be considered as veterans seeing as this latest release is their fifth studio album. Famed for huge rocking hits about relationships and growing up as a working class lad in his local area, Liam Fray has developed quite the fan base and the hype for this album has been unbridled. Will it have a Not Nineteen Forever hit on it? If the singles are anything to go by, I highly doubt it, but let’s see what they’ve got for us.

Lucifer’s Dream – 8/10
Groovy and upbeat guitar riff gives you promising signs for the song but the vocals in the verse really frustrate me. I have no idea why Liam Fray decides doing this god awful whisper singing thing is a good idea? It’s hideous basically and he should stop immediately. Conveniently, once he does stop and sings a bit more like himself the song improves massively. A really good chorus which will definitely be a big hit on their tour and around festivals. Sounds a lot like the old Courteeners sound which is exactly what people have been striving for. It’s a good opener and without the verse vocals it would’ve got a very high rating.

Kitchen – 2/10
Just, what the hell is this? When he tweeted about how proud he was of this song I was very excited, completely ignoring how much of an insufferable big head he is and how he thinks he’s god’s gift to earth. Contender for the worst chorus of the year in all honesty, singing about fridges won’t make you a winner Liam come on mate. The song has become a bit of a joke really considering how much the sound of it is modelled on the 1975, a band who have been about for about 7 years less than The Courteeners yet they’re already having their content basically stolen from them. Just end the suffering now please.

No One Will Ever Replace Us – 3/10
Meaningless and frustrating lyrics once again behind a highly tuned guitar which actually sounds like something from the cutting room floor of The Cribs or The Strokes, just nowhere near as good. Another mind numbingly woeful chorus, and this was a single? Like Liam really thought this would be a highlight of this album? Oh god it better not be. There’s no change up at all, it’s all the same tempo and all the same rubbish. The only positive I can give it? It’s better than Kitchen, but I think Nickelback have released better songs than Kitchen so that’s not saying much.

De La Salle – 4/10
Oh great, here we have Liam Fray thinking he’s Mr Noel Gallagher as he picks up an acoustic guitar and tries his very hardest to be a wordsmith. NOPE. Not a chance. What frustrates me about this song is that he doesn’t know how to sing it, like he’s not sure if he wants to sound like he’s from Manchester or like he’s from London, make your mind up please Liam. Dull is the best word I’d use to describe this. Lifeless is also another accurate representation of this snooze fest. Because it’s not absolutely horrendous, I’ll rank it higher than the previous two, but that doesn’t mean it’s any good.

Tip Toes – 5/10
Good drums, more like it with the old sound where the bangers were released like there was no tomorrow. The guitar riff is a step in the right direction too, even if it is a bit cheesy. With that being said, any song with the title ‘Tip Toes’ isn’t going to be a hard hitting piece of genius is it? I don’t know what Liam Fray has done to his voice but I don’t like it, he needs to stop with the high pitch now as well as the creepy whispering, please just stick to what you’re good at. The song does drag in all honesty and it is a partial relief when it’s over. It’s okay, nothing less and certainly nothing more. Meh would be a solid word to describe my feelings towards it.

Not For Tomorrow – 4/10
Proper rock and roll guitar riff sounds hardcore and has that passion and energy about it which we’ve come to expect from this band. It does die down in the verse and then dies even more in the pre-chorus. The chorus is dull and far from memorable, the only thing I like about this song is the 10 second stints where we have the lead guitar take centre stage. I hate comparing it to this but it reminds me of Queens Of The Stone Age, particularly the chorus and the solo, but the quality is nowhere near the level of the American rockers. Another poor song.

Finest Hour – 2/10
Matty Healy and the 1975 do a g… Oh wait this isn’t them? Could’ve fooled me. How you can copy a band’s sound this blatantly is beyond me and quite frankly I don’t think Liam Fray has the vocal range to pull these off, like not even remotely. Hand on heart honesty here, I can’t remember a single lyric from this song, whether it be verse or chorus nothing sticks out to me. Just plain and unoriginal. Even the guitars sound like the 1975 it’s just painful to listen to.

The Dilettante – 7.5/10
I like the synth drums in the background which add a nice and constant tempo to the song while the keys are soft and rhythmic to go alongside it. A very local and working class feel to the vocals and the lyrics which is something the band have modelled themselves on. “Marry a French girl and improve my verbs” is an interesting lyric but I kind of like it. I do like how it kicks into life in the chorus, at least there’s an actual change to the dynamic on this song. Definitely one of the better songs on this album and it’s a pleasant listen really, the chorus is catchy and bouncy. This is the only true time that they’ve sounded like a cool modern band on this album.

Modern Love – 5/10
More upbeat again and has a good bop to it with the drums and guitar riff going in nice harmony together. The chorus is so cheesy I had to get my grater out, cringed all the way through it especially that god awful background melody. The verses are cool enough to make me sort of forgive the plain chorus but it won’t be ignored in my critique. The bridge is just odd, his vocals don’t match the backing track at all and he just sounds so out of place. So, the verses are good but that’s about it really, the rest is dry or unnecessary. Not great, not terrible.

Most Important – 4/10
Drum beat sounds like something out of George of the Jungle and when the guitar comes in as well as the vocals it’s just bizarre. They have no correlation whatsoever and it is really off-putting. It’s once again a song where we have no change from verse to chorus other than a minute pause before the same old drums and the same old riff. It’s not until the second verse where we seem to have a bit more of a band cohesive when the drums change up ever so slightly. Liam’s vocals strain towards the end of the verse and his weakness shows, he seems a relieved man that the chorus kicks in because I don’t think he could go any higher. For what it’s worth, I thoroughly enjoyed the last minute, it was a nice burst of energy and the instrumentation was well executed, but it begs the question of why couldn’t it be like that from the start? Who knows but other than that minute, the song is far from memorable and becomes a bit of a snoozer.

The 17th – 2/10
Lead single and just why? As far as comebacks go, this is right up there with the worst. It’s almost as bad as when Oasis came back from Be Here Now to that monstrosity we call Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants, woeful. His voice in this is awful, he’s trying to sound sexy and it makes my skin crawl. He’s far from helped by the instrumental which screams The 1975 and has such a poor attempt at cheesy pop, something which fails on a grand scale. How is this the same band that wrote Notion? Or Not Nineteen Forever? It’s truly baffling how much he’s sold out, either that or he thinks he’s Lennon; and I can assure you that he certainly isn’t that. Also, why is it 5 minutes long? It’s just a boring dragged out progression which builds into a hot mess of nothingness before fading into irrelevancy again. Bore off, what a god awful way to not only end an album, but to sell an album.

Overall – 4/10
Genuinely, I think a 4/10 is very generous for this. To have TWO songs on an entire album which are actually listenable is a cardinal sin, especially for a band with a reputation like The Courteeners. I will tell you exactly why this is so bad, it’s because Liam Fray is attempting to enter the unknown realm of indie/alt music, and I’ll let you into a little secret of mine. HE DOESN’T HAVE THE ABILITY TO DO THAT. Yes he’s a good guitarist but he can’t make that clean sound which has become a trademark of that genre and he doesn’t have the voice to sound cool doing it. This album is a serious catastrophe and it’s a shame to dish dirt on a band I once respected dearly for their working class honesty and the raw energy they had. Now? It’s all so plastic and I don’t like it one bit.

Slaves – Take Control: Album Review

Slaves are an aggressive and lively punk duo from Kent who have set themselves the mission of bringing back the rebellious days in music, when the Sex Pistols were at their peak and the punk genre was booming. They have certainly picked up some momentum and acclaim along the way, with their debut album ‘Are You Satisfied?’ being nominated for the infamous Mercury Music Prize in 2014 thanks to hits such as ‘Cheer Up London’ and ‘The Hunter’ as well as the hysterically bizarre ‘Where’s Your Car, Debbie?’ Isaac and Laurie have developed quite the reputation for being a loveable duo who just love performing, whether that be their own songs or some fantastic covers. A cover of Skepta’s ‘Shutdown’ went viral and became a sensation, so much so that it ended up on the extended edition of the debut album. Now they have more new music for us, all are original tracks and all are sure to be full of life, let’s see what ‘Take Control’ has in store for us.

Spit It Out – 8.5/10
Lead single and it’s easy to see why, it has so much energy and an almost crazed or deranged vocal. The guitar riff is cool in the verse and it goes into overdrive for the chorus but to be honest, so does every single other aspect. If you’re trying to read anything into the lyrics then please stop because there’s nothing there. It’s just a typical Slaves sound and it’s got them this far so who can blame them for doing this? It’ll be an incredible spectacle live and something which is a decent opener to the album. As lead singles go, it’s not quite as good as ‘The Hunter’ but it’s still a good track.

Hypnotised – 7/10
Huge noise coming from just one guitar, it’s really impressive what Laurie crafts by himself in that sense. It also goes very nicely with the rhythmic drum beat which has a really good constant beat to it. There’s far greater for the critics to listen out for in terms of vocals, mainly because there’s actual verses with different words, as well as the borderline rap style of Isaac on this song. I’m not a huge fan of his voice on this song, however and think he needs to take control of it a bit better. It’s clearly a message of standing up and being counted which appears to be the band’s ethos as a whole and it’ll certainly make you listen. Another decent track but could be better with some more dominant vocals.

Consume Or Be Consumed – 9/10
A bit staggered but I really like the pace of this song, it’s still a loud and aggressive tone but done in a steady way. Well, as steady as punk music can be. We also get real frustration from Isaac as he does something we barely ever hear him do in his songs, and that’s swear. As well as that he goes back into a rapping style for his verses and gives off the impression that he is trying to cram all this information into a very short span of time. The best part of the song has to be the synthesised pianos on the chorus which really add something new to the sound alongside the heavy drums and screaming vocals. It’s probably my favourite song on the album to be honest, raw energy and a nice twist to what we usually hear from them.

Take Control – 8.5/10
I absolutely love the punk guitar riff on this song, it’s so catchy and epitomises everything Slaves stand for with that banger style rock. Isaac’s vocals are borderline demonic and you can feel his vocal strain as he screeches the words, it’s ahold job this song is only 2 minutes really otherwise he could be in some pain. It’s a great throwback punk anthem and as I’ve said before it’s everything Slaves model themselves on; and that’s being quick, loud and to the point. Guitar riff wise it’s probably the most challenging of all Laurie’s tasks on this album and he executes it brilliantly.

Mr Industry (Skit) – N/A/10
All fun and games and it has ‘skit’ in its name for a reason, only 12 seconds long and sounds like a phone recording slating the generic idea of working in industry and being a robot to society. A stand up and rise middle finger to what we understand to be the regularity of modern life. In the context of the album and band it is fantastic but it’s not a song so I can’t judge it as such.

Rich Man – 8/10
Another cool guitar riff and it’s complimented by a witty vocal and a hard hitter of a drum beat. It’s a continuous jibe at the conforms of modern day society, whether he be mentioning “offshore accounts” or it be the chorus where he persists to sing that “rich man I’m not your bitch man”, implying that he doesn’t want to bow down to the corporate gods if you will and would rather live a life of happiness. A very clever song and another public announcement or a rallying cry if you will. I really like it.

Play Dead – 6.5/10
Periodic guitar playing is matched with a staggered drum beat as the song’s tempo appears to be in slow motion for the most part. The staggered nature of this song is a nice switch up from the usual balls to the wall hell bent pace of the band on other songs. I think that as an actual piece of music it’s far from perfect but it was never intended to be perfect, the sudden pauses and the barely recognisable vocals are all part of the mirage Isaac and Laurie will have wanted to create and they do that very well. I like it but wouldn’t recommend it as a stand alone song.

Lies – 8/10
The longest song on the album and I welcome that just for the guitar riff. It’s so clean and crisp it sounds like the kind of riff you’d hear from an 80s glam rock band and I for one can’t get enough of it. It’s also nice to hear Isaac actually try and sing on this song as opposed to that demonic scream he shows on the usual Slaves songs. Everything about this song just seems much more complex than their usual previous discography and it could spell a slight alteration of genres in future pastures. Needless to say that if it’s anything like this song, I’m all for it.

Fuck The Hi-Hat – N/A/10
And back we go to that twisted hardcore punk sound. Hard to judge a 45 second song really especially given that all it is is a mini guitar solo which comes after Isaac repeating the song’s title a few times. Seems a bit unnecessary really I’m not sure why it’s been put in.

Gary (Skit) – N/A/10
Another strange skit which is a voice message left on a phone, once again unless I’m missing something I just can’t work out the point of these being in here other than to fill the album and increase the amount of songs. Confusing.

People That You Meet – 2/10
Stupid lyrics really, a poorly described anecdote which just has no interesting plot whatsoever. Like I understand that a major part of Slaves’ message is to try and not be the generic people you see in everyday life, as shown in songs such as Cheer Up London, but this is just absurd really. It’s such an irritating song with a horrid chorus I really struggled getting all the way through this one in all honesty. Let’s move on and forget this ever happened.

Steer Clear – 7.5/10
Unlike anything you’re ever going to hear from these boys, has a Gorillaz vibe to it with the electronic drum kit and the soft guitar playing along with the synths in the chorus. The vocals are hideous in terms of pitch and delivery, but for some reason it works. Whether it be Isaac’s monotonal boredom voice in the verse or Laurie’s softer tone in the chorus it just works and I have no idea why. Another bold and creative step and I commend it, good track this one.

Cold Hard Floor – 3/10
Bass riff on this song sounds like a slowed down version of Consume Or Be Consumed which is obviously very unoriginal and has a smattering of deja vu about it. The vocals are awfully strained and elongated it’s almost agony to listen to sometimes. They sound like a really poor Liam Gallagher tribute act with a vocal performance like this. Very easy to get bored of this song to be honest, it’s a real disappointment no matter how hard they try to sound unique and clever with the electronics. One of the low points of the album without a doubt.

STD’s / PHD’s – 3/10
Well that was a change of pace, an explosion of noise and synthesisers which wouldn’t go amiss at a Crystal Castles show but obviously not as technical nor impressive as that. It just annoys me because it’s clear they are trying to mix things up and be a bit different than an everyday punk band but on evidence of this, they really can’t do that and need to stick to their guns. Without that raw passion and energy they don’t really have much to them and they get found out on songs like this. With lyrics like “social housing, anti-freeze” it’s a wonder how this one made the cut really. The song title is weird enough without this completely bizarre change in sound and well, ability too. Doesn’t showcase any of the skills they have. Poor.

Angelica – 3.5/10
Really? Again with the electronics and the slower pace? This is a major backward step in their development unfortunately, it’s just a blatant exposure of their inability to change their style with success because this is dull, boring and irritating. The guitar riff isn’t even good and the drum beat is lifeless too. Mad to think this is the same band which made The Hunter, tripe is the only way I could describe this really without breaking the PG rule. Stuttery beats hardly ever work and this is no different and the lyrics are mind numbing, please end this. It’s only getting a .5 higher than the previous two songs because of the mildly enjoyable “solo”.

Same Again – 8/10
THIS IS WHAT WE WANT FROM THEM. Energy, passion and raw attitude. It’s so fast paced with a heavily amplified guitar riff creating a sound which you wouldn’t expect to come from two people. This is what they are so so good at. Along with the huge rise in talent in the instrumental we also get a better demonstration of lyricism and vocals which give it a proper punk sound, the archetypical Slaves vibe which just can’t be topped by their soft experimental songs. It’ll be a strong hit live and it’s a great way to end the album given the hot mess that came before it.

Overall – 6.5/10
A very hit and miss project. When they go punk, they sound better than ever with aggressive hits such as Consume Or Be Consumed and Spit It Out. But when they try and move away from that? No, I’d rather not talk about that. Is it progress from the last album? Absolutely not. Is it still a fairly good piece of work? I’d say so, but if it’s a sign of them changing genres and becoming more technical I may have to move away from the Slaves bandwagon because that’s not what we signed up for. Keep it punk rock lads because you kill it when you do that. Yours truly, Ellis x