Courting - Guitar Music (PIAS)

Courting – Guitar Music (PIAS)

When you take a look at some of the great indie debut albums over time, one thing that is common amongst them is that they’re memorable, whether you look at Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not from Arctic Monkeys, or Hot Fuss by The Killers, these are two albums that saw their respective bands immediately garner success, and for all of their fantastic qualities, the one thing that sticks out, to me at least, is that they’re memorable, even after the numerous albums that have been released by their respective bands since.

But in 2022, how do you go and make a memorable indie debut album as a band when the discourse both in and around the genre is that indie music, and its various subgenres, is stagnating? According to Courting, the answer is simple, just go ever so slightly crazy…

Crazy in this context, however, is parallel to genius , as the tongue-in-cheek debut album ‘Guitar Music’ rips up the rule book when it comes to writing a debut album as far as indie music goes. The opening track ‘Twin Cities’ begins as a gorgeous symphony, and within 30 seconds, it transforms into a dark glitchy electronic track that will probably make most unsuspecting listeners think their phone has suddenly turned into a Nintendo Gameboy with a sound card that had proceeded to self-destruct.

And for those who glanced at the title and expected a run of the mill four-piece indie band experience, and to some extent, those who enjoyed some of Courting’s previous offerings, such as their 2021 EP Grand National, their reality and all previous opinions are shattered within the first track. Lead singer and frontman Sean Murphy-O’Neil quite aptly refers to it as a “palette cleanser”, and it’s not hard to see why, it makes you forget anything the Liverpool four-piece have done previously and opens the mind for what is to follow for the rest of the album in a stark and quite utterly bonkers way.

In order to fully understand where this album comes from though, it’s important to understand that whilst making this album, the band, as Murphy-O’Neil states, posed themselves this question: “Can we be a band that plays guitar and still be experimental and interesting?”, and although the rough and glitchy textures that line and decorate the first track may feel somewhat synthetic, the irony is that it is still comprised of samples from the band playing the guitar, which is very much a full circle moment in regard to the album’s title.

So as listeners begin to shake off the shell shock from the first track, the second track, and the first single from this album, ‘Tennis’ begins to unfold. The glitchy guitars are still present, but share the spotlight alongside a well-paced bassline with Murphy-O’Neil’s distinct spoken vocals, which are tinged with a post-punk sensibility. Thematically, the track discusses the complexities of a paypig relationship, more specifically, one that’s coming to an end.

Loaded’ is a track that contains numerous different layers, like a patchwork of sounds, and is probably one of the tracks most representative of this album as a whole, both lyrically and sonically. Meanwhile the quirky and jovial sounding ‘Famous’ is contrasted excellently with the track ‘Crass’ that undergoes a redux for the album, which sees it take on a much more brutal, dissonant sound that shows that Courting themselves aren’t afraid with taking one of their more popular tracks and throwing it against the wall like a Lego sculpture and starting all over again.

Speaking of popular tracks, there’s no doubt that ‘Jumper’ will be popular amongst fans, and is Courting’s answer to a quintessential indie pop track, but it also demonstrates an undergoing maturation in lyrical content too, with the lyrical focus often shifting from political to personal throughout the course of the album. In fact, the album doesn’t just contrast their previous work in sound, but also in the level of emotion that suffuses its way through each track.

Penultimate track, dubbed ‘Uncanny Valley‘, is a nine minute long track that truly defines the term experimental, and whilst is discusses the very absurd concept of falling in love with a CGI influencer, a lot of the lyrics still remain relatable emotionally, with a gradual post-rock build up that flails into an electronic climax.

The closing track on this unorthodox wonderland of an album, ‘PDA’, is considered by the band to be “A display of affection for those around us”, and it’s an incredibly well-suited closure to the album, brimming with noise and emotion. It is perhaps best symbolised best by the fireworks that can be heard in the background of the track, which were going sampled as they went off outside of the studio as the band recorded song on bonfire night.

Overall, Courting’s debut effort can be described in many different ways, but as I put it in my opening paragraph, a good debut indie album is memorable, and that is the perfect way to describe this album.

Guitar Music is released through PIAS on 23rd September.


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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.