The Courteeners

St. Jude

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The long-awaited debut by neo-Brit-pop quartet the Courteeners fits neatly into the continuum of big brash guitar bands from Manchester, with hints of the Smiths (including a typically fine production job by Stephen Street), the Stone Roses (occasional flirtations both with '60s-style jangle pop and psychedelia), and Oasis (frontman Liam Fray's big mouth and apparent lack of internal censor, both of which have already made him a popular interview subject for the U.K. music press) coloring these 12 songs. Now, Fray is not the equal of those bands as either a distinctive frontman or as an instantly memorable songwriter, but the best parts of St. Jude are at least superior to, say, Menswear or Cast. Tracks like the singles "What Took You So Long?" and "Not Nineteen Forever" fairly leap out of the gate, all jangly guitar lines and galloping rhythm sections, topped with Fray's endearingly yobbish vocals and unabashed sentimental lyrical streak, and the more measured material throws enough changeups to keep the album from getting tiring. Time will tell whether the Courteeners have more than one good album in them, but there is always room for this spirited take on British indie rock.

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