Now on their fourth album in six years and hot on the heels of last year's 'Anna', you certainly can't accuse Manchester's The Courteeners of resting on their laurels. With the festival season out of the way, the band will headline a UK tour from the end of October, whilst frontman Liam Fray has promised their hometown something special next year.
Whilst their debut saw them become a fixture of indie-discos, the indication of their last release, 'Concrete Love' saw the quartet aim for the arenas. It is a direction cemented by the crunching riffs of opener 'White Horses', 'Next Time You Call' and the delectable 'Saboteur'. However, what is gained in sonic boom is lost from the intricacy of Fray's lyrics, arguably the band's greatest asset and something that has previously drawn praise from Morrissey. Thankfully, we get a decent number of tracks that place Fray's words and voice at the forefront of proceedings - the first of which, 'Small Bones', sees him about as romantic as he's ever been. Whilst Alex Turner was originally labelled by some as the voice of a generation, Fray remains able to put to song the experiences of the man in the street; 'Has He Told You That He Loves You Yet' effortlessly describes the situation where you can see a friend being used by a partner who clearly has no devotion to her. There's certainly no questioning the devotion of the band to their craft, as this is a catchy number that swoons with the assistance of effectively employed strings.
More often than not, the band returns to a grander sound that underlines an ambition to broaden their reach. 'International' doesn't quite take off, but features the memorable couplet "You wanna talk about cocky/It's like Muhammed Ali tag-teamed with Rocky". 'How Good It Was' is an upbeat radio anthem that does a job, but lacks the content expected of Fray's high standards, while 'Summer' is a surprising turn from leftfield. Driven on a bass riff and overlaid with acoustic guitar, it is an appropriately titled song with a breezy feel and laidback hook that is infectious after a couple of listens. Crucially for The Courteeners, it is also an indication that they've yet to become creatively bankrupt and that their next release should see some development. For the moment though, this is their most consistent release to date and is listenable throughout, even if it's not always the band at their very best.