The Courteeners


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It would have been hard to guess that the Courteeners had a sensitive side based on St. Jude, but they show little else on Falcon. Where their debut was rough and raw courtesy of quintessential Brit-pop producer Stephen Street, for this set of songs the band headed to Belgium to work with Ed Buller, who helped them slows things down and take them more seriously. If the Courteeners risked sounding like a caricature of mouthy Manchester bands before them such as Oasis on St. Jude, here they feel in danger of becoming a copy of the city’s more reflective bands, like Elbow. Perhaps the big attitude change on Falcon comes from a need for the band to prove that there’s more to their sound than breathless rock and sneering lyrics, and to a certain extent, they accomplish this. “The Opener” doesn’t just open up the album, it opens up the Courteeners’ sound into polished, epic rock complete with brass and strings (some of the clearest signals a band can send that its music is Serious). It also lets singer Liam Fray open up with some confessional lyrics about the strength of his love for his girl and his city, facing up to infidelities (“I’ve been having an affair with London and New York”) and seeking reassurance. It works because Fray’s voice is appealing and the song’s anthemic swell is hard to deny, but Falcon is almost painfully earnest and filled with too many songs that feel like they’d be a nice break from the action on a louder album. “The Rest of the World Has Gone Home” would be an ideal closing track, but it’s in the middle of Falcon; “Lullaby” and “Cameo Brooch” are tender, but they drag. The Courteeners are still fare better when they’re a little cocky, as on the Franz Ferdinand-like groove of “You Overdid It Doll” and “Scratch Your Name Upon My Lips,” or when they keep the energy up, like they do on “Good Times Are Calling.” It turns out that too much soul-baring is as bad as too many putdowns; maybe next time the band will find some balance between the extremes of this album and St. Jude.

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