Modern, harsh, and charming. Feel the love and discomfort of Courting’s debut album.
Courting is a Liverpool based 4-piece band who continue to engage audiences with their revival of British post-punk. Over the past few years, they have been ‘ones to watch’ all over the indie music scene and now you should have your eyes glued to them. Their EP Grand National in 2020 connected their sound to bands like FEET and Sports Team and showcased singer Sean Murphy-O’Neill’s scathing lyrical commentary and humour.
With the release of their debut album Guitar Music on September 23rd we can see the breadth of their creativity. The album opens with LoFi transcending harshly to electrical abrasion in ‘Cosplay/Twin Cities’, the first point at which we hear the level of distortion which is used across the tracks. The band are running away from the conventions of indie, carrying urgency through the album.
‘Tennis’ introduces hyper-pop into the album, with energetic lyrics and a driving bassline the chorus which hints at Bilk’s ‘Spiked’. Sandwich-between blood-pumping ‘Loaded’ and ‘Crass(redux)’ is ‘America’, which Murphy-O’Neills calls their best song. It makes you feel like a teen listening to The 1975for the first time. Nostalgic for a time I’ll never see, while Murphy-O’Neill sings of current beauty standards, car parks and TV.
The proliferation of audio distortion and glitching voices becomes jarringly obvious on ‘Crass’ (originally on Grand National) and begins to hammer home the disturbing present-day and unsettling nature of technology. Evolving beyond its presence on Grand National, the heavy bass line gets gradually replaced by harsh beats.
‘Jumper’s 90s Pop Rock nostalgia is hard not to dance to, and stars throwback love-song lyricism bathed in autotune. In contrast, ‘Uncanny Valley Forever’ starts jarringly with bleeps and clicks that eventually calm to a ballad that is reminiscent of ‘Concorde’ by Black County, New Road. Again, washed in autotune and building in electrical sound, the song creates an engaging discomfort. The lyrics become more and more uncomfortable too as Murphy-O’Neill sings of “A March wedding, ringing bells, a mannequin head suspended by a wire” desperate to hold onto some semblance of connection to who he’s speaking to while asking “why does my mouth taste metallic?” The crushing guitar and audio distortion delivers to nihilism and doom alongside the love and energy that this album pours out.
The closer of ‘PDA’ marches the album to a close with the heart and soul of the band, with a noisy smoothness that calms the storm of the album.
Courting’s endeavours of Guitar Music show them experimenting and succeeding in so many genres, challenges, and approaches to what this album could have ended up as. They could have played it so much safer, but they dared to play guitar music.