In honour of the Courteeners performing at Heaton Park last night – the biggest gig of their career – we’ve compiled this definitive list of the band’s best songs to date.
10. The Opener // Falcon (2010)
I’ve heard many Courteeners fans declare that they don’t like the ‘The Opener’ from the band’s 2010 record, Falcon. And, fair enough, upon first listen through it can seem somewhat excluding if you’re not from the band’s hometown city of Manchester: “I was meant for this place, I was meant for you.”
Up and down the country the Courteeners have amassed a devoted and loyal fanbase who are notorious for the enthusiastic manner in which they embrace live shows. Yet despite the cultivation of such a passionate set of fans nationally, it’s fair enough that the band should always have a soft spot for the city where they started out.
Afterall, Manchester has a rich musical heritage and it makes sense that the Courteeners want to embed themselves alongside the likes of Oasis and The Smiths – note the reference to “hand in glove” in ‘Fallowfield Hillbilly’ and “I’m like Morrissey with some strings” in ‘What Took You So Long’. ‘The Opener’ is a thank you letter of a sort, to the city which raised them – a sentiment which is simply too charming to ignore.
9. Please Don’t // St Jude (2008)
‘Please Don’t’ perfectly showcases the brutal realism which makes the Courteeners’ music so relatable. Having expressed his belief that typical boy/girl love songs are empty and hollow in an interview, it’s perhaps unsurprising that there’s such an abundance of cynicism in Fray’s lyrics.
This track is somewhat bitter in tone, with a shouty aspect to the vocal – particularly with the use of the expletives in “it’s got fuck all to do with me” – but this makes ‘Please Don’t’ arguably one of the most popular songs from the Courteeners’ live sets, thanks to the staccato-esque delivery of the chorus “please don’t / pretend / that we’ll / stay friends”. A middle fingered salute from anyone who has ever been dumped to those doing the dumping, what’s not to love?
8. Has He Told You That He Loves You Yet – Concrete Love (2014)
Courteeners 2014 album Concrete Love received mix reviews upon release, heralded by many as a weaker effort than 2013’s Anna. The album itself is a grower, but there were stand out tracks from the first listen; ‘Has He Told You That He Loves You Yet’ is a psychedelic concoction which seems to warn against making poor romantic decisions, and more importantly getting out before you get your heart broken.
Taking on the role of an observer seemingly hopelessly in love with the female lead, yet simultaneously hinting at a dark side of his own “I can see the sordid thoughts that he’s thinking”, Fray urges the woman to “get out girl… that boy, he don’t deserve you”. Somewhat more electronic in sound, this track is one to sing your heart out to with your girlfriends – not as laddish, perhaps, as other tracks in the band’s discography.
7. Lullaby // Falcon (2010)
Whilst demonstrating a propensity for writing fantastically English rhyming couplets “Only a paperboy from the northwest / But I scrub up well in my Sunday best”, ‘Lullaby’ simultaneously showcases a more emotionally fragile side to the Mancunian frontman. Whilst cynicism tends to dominate a large portion of Fray’s narratives, ‘Lullaby’ serves as a refreshing alternative.
There’s an ethereal quality to the melody, and for the most part it remains relatively unobtrusive with Fray’s apology to a lover dominating: “I wish I could’ve sung you a lullaby / But I can’t, because I’m a mess / I’m too proud / I’m stubborn and I’m selfish and you know that I’m loud”. Underneath the “I don’t give a shit” Mancunian attitude is a hopeless romantic – who uses his realism rather than hyperbolic declarations to win us all over.
6. Are You In Love With A Notion? – Anna (2013)
Whilst ‘Are You In Love With A Notion?’ has become the means by which parody accounts seek to ridicule Courteeners fans – thanks to Fray’s delivery of “a notion” sounding somewhat like “an ocean” – there’s a beautiful kitchen sink quality to this song which is reminiscent of Pulp’s ‘Disco 2000’. This is a song about falling in love with a notion, falling prey to idle daydreams – of wanting to quit your job at Debenhams, run away and get married in the sun.
Such daydreams might only make us more frustrated with the mundane reality of our everyday lives, but ultimately being infatuated with a notion is something we’ve all been guilty of. This sentiment is epitomised by the album title: Anna – a character who Fray regards as ‘anyone’ rather than a figure of personal significance. Anna is representative of any member of the opposite sex that causes you heartache, lust, love – with daydreams certainly capable of evoking all three.
5. Cavorting // St Jude (2008)
With a tumultuous melody which the Libertines would be proud of, ‘Cavorting’ is one of those songs which simply requires you to move – whether that’s starting a circle pit at a gig, jerking your knee as you commute to work, or air drumming to match Michael Campbell’s unrelenting beats as you take a well-deserved break from essay writing.
This track epitomises British nightlife: “And now you’re too tired to eat and you’re too hungry to sleep / we’re hooligans on E and were too tired to bother with any of you”, serving as Manchester’s answer to Sheffield’s ‘Red Light Indicate Doors Are Secured’ and making for a truly mental live show from the Courteeners.
4. Marquee – Anna (2013)
Along with ‘That Kiss’, ‘Marquee’ is somewhat more subdued than the majority of the Courteeners’ catalogue, with the focus on the emotionally wrought narrative that Fray lays bare. Slower songs such as this one show that it’s not all about the pyro for the Courteeners; afterall no matter how tough you are you’re capable of being unlucky in love.
Fray takes on an appealing, somewhat desperate tone “I don’t mean to be so rude / but next time you think you might not love someone / don’t you think it’s best to tell them earlier on?” This rawness is aided by the choral backing vocals, which lends the track its overall melancholic quality. ‘Marquee’ is a refreshing change from the “up and at ‘em” constructions which the band are arguably more comfortable with.
3. You Overdid It Doll // Falcon (2010)
‘You Overdid It Doll’ stands out by a mile from the track listing of Falcon, with the undulating bassline gifting the track its disco feel (testament to producer Ed Buller, who has worked with both Suede and Pulp).
This change in tone demonstrates that the Courteeners are not merely capable of writing jangly guitar hooks, and whilst the chorus is somewhat repetitive “you overdid it doll” it is perhaps the tracks greatest attribute as it lends the track its anthemic sing-a-long vibe. When coupled with Campbell’s hypnotic drum loop, this track drives Courteeners audiences into a complete frenzy.
2. Not Nineteen Forever // St Jude (2008)
‘Not Nineteen Forever’ documents the struggles of being a teenager alongside an infectiously jangly riff, making for a seriously big tune. There’s a degree of hindsight to the track which seems to warn against the antics of youth with the final line “it’s not big, you’re definitely not clever”.
Overall, the track serves as a warning that your teenage years don’t last forever and at some point the time will come where you have to “pull yourself together” and get on with life like the rest of us. That said the catchiness and frantic melody provides nineteen year olds everywhere with one last chance to go truly mental, and for that we’re incredibly grateful to the Courteeners.
1. No You Didn’t, No You Don’t // St Jude (2008)
The way Liam Fray trips and spits the lyrics in ‘No You Didn’t, No You Don’t’ gives the track a somewhat scatty quality, perfect for drunkenly chanting back to the band as you tip your head back and shout “jealousy will destroy us or so you used to say!”. Campbell’s punchy drum beat and cymbal crashes intertwine with Daniel Moores’ jangly melody to create a track full of pace which never lets up.
Whilst Fray might not be as poetic as Alex Turner, there’s certainly an element of sage wisdom which is abundant in Courteeners’ discography: see the declarative “there’ll always be people looking down their noses”. Less flowery, far more real and emotive, the Courteeners are masters of saying it like it is.