Concrete Love is the fourth studio album from distinctively Mancunian indie-rockers, The Courteeners. Following up so soon from Anna, released less than 18 months ago, was a bold choice – with lead singer Liam Fray himself confirming that the album was produced in a third of the time spent on their previous records. Unfortunately the album may have benefited if the old adage “slow and steady wins the race,” had been closer adhered to.
Having said that, lead single ‘Summer’ is embedded with an incredibly catchy beat that makes it easily the most radio-friendly offering on the album. How Good It Was, also separately released as a single, is another solid track that equally sticks in the listeners head.
Fray’s signature wry and relatable lyrical style is still welcomingly present on ‘Small Bones’, which discusses, “Medium-distance romance/ Just a Virgin Pendolino.” Said track is also notable as one of the better slower offerings on the record, perhaps in part due to the rousing horns that evoke comparison to the band’s Mancunian-brethen, Elbow.
Unfortunately other slow-tempo tracks, ‘International’, ‘Dreamers’ and ‘Beautiful Head’ have less impact, lacking in any discernible emotive oomph. The latter of the three also causes befuddlement on account of being centred around a questionable choice of compliment. (Is her head particularly well shaped? Is having a beautiful head something we should all be concerned about?)
Luckily not all songs evoke such an apathetic (or confused) reaction, with the retro-sounding and attitude-laden ‘Next Time You Call’ and the stomping ‘Sabateur’ both immediately arriving with a forceful punch. Meanwhile, ‘Has He Told You That He Loves You Yet’ seems custom-made for a crowd to sing along to, with clapping pre-built in to accompany the refrain of “Get out girl/Go get out girl/That boy he/Don’t deserve you,” increasing this effect (and also helpfully giving rhythmically lacking fans a chance to practise their timing). This highlights that their main strength as a band will always be in the easy transition of their material to a live setting, which is reaffirmed by the deluxe version of the album including a 23-track recording of last summer’s homecoming gig at Castlefield Bowl.
Overall, this is certainly far from a bad album. It has notable weaknesses that feel like definite filler tracks, but the strength of the better songs just about does enough to balance this out. It isn’t the most original record of the year, fitting into the tried and tested indie rock mould with absolute ease – but if that’s what the fans want to hear, then perhaps that’s alright.