The venue is packed. The buzz is here. The Courteeners are the most talked about new band in Manchester. It’s a 500 capacity sell out.
Its not hipsters or scene faces packing in but normal music fans that are singing along to Liam Fray’s songs. He’s a top songwriter this Fray, a charismatic lanky kid armed with a guitar and a guttersnipe mouth who sings songs of scruffy beat up real Manchester, not the hip corporate tourist brochure of Manchester but the real dog eared Manchester that was the inspiration to all the great music that ever came out of the city.
Fray is the direct descendent of the Smiths, The Roses, the Buzzcocks, The Mondays, Oasis, the Manc with an attitude- the smart Manc with something to say.
In the post Tony Wilson Manchester people have wondered just what’s going to happen next.
The city certainly needs something. The Artic Monkeys should have come from here, maybe even the Kaiser Chiefs but the fact that Sheffield and Leeds got there first with the bands that mark the generation says something out the city’s current musical malaise.
Just where are the mouthy, smart, hip, cool young bands that once effortlessly seemed to pour out of Manchester and change British music?
What’s happened to the lineage that ran from the Buzzcocks through Joy Division then the Smiths, Happy Mondays, Roses and Oasis?
Well that where the Courteeners step in.
Fronted by the gangling Liam Fray the Courteeners are everything you need from a classic Manc band. They got bags of attitude. They have the smarts and they write clever hip songs that are instantly identifiable. They started creating a buzz twelve months ago that’s now become deafening, they sold out academy 3 last month, they were the best band at the D Percussion festival and their next gig at the 900 capacity Academy 2 sold out in three days, the NME is going crazy for them and so is the national radio.
If there is one Manchester band that could claim to be of the now then it’s the Courteeners.
They are going to break out big style.
And they know it.
Last time I interviewed them the city’s music message boards were crammed with spiteful missives from other bands resentful of the attention the Courteeners were getting. Liam Fray laughs, he’s spent a lot of time winding up these cliques in song and in interview and he’s quite happy to see the results.
”ËThere are a lot of green-eyed monsters in Manchester and what they say we take it on the chin! Maybe some of these bands should spend more time on their songs and less on message boards”¦’ he laughs.
Fray is in the studio recoding the band’s follow up to their debut, ”Cavorting’ single. They are working on two tracks, ”Acrylic’ and ”Fallowfield Hillbilly’ which take Fray’s Ray Davies almost Kinks style witty social observation one step further. Like Davies Fray sees through the bullshit that inhabits the fringes of the pop scene, the chancers and fakes who make great targets for his cutting wit.
”’Acrylic’ is about, well, I’m a massive fan of the Libertines, they changed the way that young bands and young people looked at music but it doesn’t mean I want to be in band that’s just a pastiche of them. Lots of bands are like generic copies- they just take the template and stick with it- like plastecene being moulded. Lots of bands in Manchester have a vest and straw hat on and that is in the middle of November when it’s minus 4 and freezing and I’m singing about that fakeness. ”Fallowfield Hillbilly’ is about the students that come here in September with a thousand quid to spare that they spend on some Joy Division b sides and think that they can tell you all about your culture. Its not meant to be nasty about students in general- infact its about one person I met on a bus with eye liner and one glove on who thought that he was an expert on Joy Division. Its taking the piss, its not like we are sharpening our knives looking for people!’
Its Fray’s Kinks style observations on the current anomalies of the scene that mark him out. His words are clever, funny, hip and make sense to anyone following the vagrancies of modern music.
Fray doesn’t mind stepping on a few toes. That’s the classic Manchester way. None of the classic groups who ever came out of the city could ever be accused of having no opinions, The Courteeners debut interview in the NME saw this scattergun approach with bands like the Enemy being targeted by the tongue in cheek spleen.
”To be honest I was a bit too harsh and condesecing in that interview! I had about five pints but what I said about the Enemy still stands though. A lot people from Harperhey on a raining October morning don’t need to hear someone singing that life is shit on an ipod. The Jam did it so much better 30years ago! I’m sure The Enemy are great lads, if I see them I’ll buy them a pint!’ he generously offers.
It’s been a long time coming. Manchester needs a band like this. The city can’t be sat idling away whilst Leeds and Sheffield get all the plaudits. This was the music city. The never-ending explosion of poncey bars and glass towers are aesthetically pleasing but they don’t make great rock n roll. There’s been an interruption in the conveyer belt of great bands.
That was until the Courteeners turned up, they have no truck with this fake Manchester and celebrate the real city. Their songs are semi busked brilliantly constructed slices of melodic guitar action. They are about to go all over the media. This is really happening. Their gigs feel like one of those early Roses gigs, that hush of expectancy, that total support for the band, only Manchester has that kind of vibe and when the city really gets behind a band and the real city finds a band that it can support it becomes something special.
The Courteeners are something special. They are the post Libertines, post Artic Monkeys new millennium Manchester band, they have the scruffy smarts, the brashness and the devil may care attitude.
Above all they have the songs.