The Magic Whip
Four albums down the line, arenas sold out – why doesn't anyone give Liam Fray the time of day?
Courteeners' Mancunian frontman (and, to some extent, their one-man band) has had to soak up more brickbats than praise in the six years they've been a functioning unit, with the press eager to pigeonhole him as the lite version of that other Manc Liam. That hasn't stopped the fans sending their first three albums into the top 10, and it hasn't prevented them turning up to gigs in their droves. It must rankle though, mustn't it?
Critical acclaim isn't the be-all and end-all, but nor do we come to bury Fray. He doesn't seem troubled by adversity anyway. There's nothing meek or unsure about Concrete Love, an album recorded in Montmartre, Paris, that has the sense of new horizons cut into its DNA. While the overall timbre is meat-and-two-veg post-Oasis rock as per – take, in particular, the urgent but ordinary Black & Blue and the dour Small Bones – there's enough invention going on here to suggest Fray wants to answer the naysayers.
On International, Courteeners sound like a (more) bombastic National, puns aside, and there's enough sneer and bite in Next Time You Call's guitars to recall Television or forgotten Scots sleaze gods The Nectarine No.9. This is Fray thinking outside the box. Elsewhere, he's too often maudlin about a lost love, but there's rarely a dull moment.