COURTEENERS

 

To become the biggest band in Manchester, city of The Smiths, The Stone Roses and Oasis, is no mean feat. In 2015 that prestigious honour went to Courteeners, that summer playing to their largest hometown crowd of 25,000 at Heaton Park before closing the year with a record breaking seven-night residency at the city’s O2 Apollo. “What those gigs gave us was an unassailable belief that people believe in this band,” says singer and songwriter Liam Fray. “After four albums it felt like a real vindication, as much for the fans who came along as for us as a band. It made us step back and think – hang on, we’re not finished yet. It was as if playing those shows gave us a new lease of life.”


This revitalised joie de vivre is self-evident on fifth album Mapping The Rendezvous, a record fizzing with infectious riffs, smart lyrics, giant choruses and the irrepressible energy of a band playing to their maximum strengths. Lyrically, its tales of kitchen-sink hedonism, hopeful romanticism and disappearing youth are a Jarvis-sharp reminder of why both Morrissey and Johnny Marr have praised Fray as such a worthy wordsmith: eleven tracks chasing the night towards dawn through love, chaos, friendship, dreams, regret and the lingering euphoria of “having such a good time”. “The album is a bit like a night out,” describes Fray. “A lot of the lyrics relate to adventures I’ve had, both in the past when I was younger and in recent times. Stories about people I’ve met, places I’ve been, old acquaintances and relationships.”


Fray’s muse was first ignited by Sebastian Schipper’s award-winning 2015 film Victoria, the drama of a Spanish girl in Berlin whose night of drinking and clubbing ends in a bank robbery, all shot in a continuous camera take. “That film blew my mind,” Fray enthuses. “It’s a real assault on the senses and something about the atmosphere of it kick-started a lot of ideas for the songs. I’ve never had a night out go as badly as it does in the film, but the look and feel of it was definitely a massive inspiration.”


More direct influence came from Paris, the city where Fray and long-time Courteeners producer Joe Cross spent time writing and recording demos by day, exploring its bars and clubs by night. “I went to Paris to write our last album [2014’s Concrete Love], but this time I really got under the city’s nails, proper deep down and dirty. Obviously with everything that Paris has been through in recent times it’s a city on the edge right now. It was a strange time to be there. But I can't help but be sucked in by it. It does something to me that nowhere else does and I think that fed into the spirit of the music.”


If after 2015’s glory gigs Courteeners looked set to jet off to brave, new destinations, Mapping The Rendezvous sees them arrive in style. Poetic latitude meets magical longitude of life-affirming pop. In 2016, you won’t find a better set of co-ordinates.