The debut album from Courting feels like a thirty-minute representation of the craziness and romance of youth: filled with all its mood swings, self-deprecation, and political vigour. “This time we’ll make it better; this time we’ll watch your ship sink” “Why’s everybody getting older?” frontperson Sean Murphy-O’Neill sings on Famous; whilst “Once a liar, always headed to a lordship title” is yelled with vigour on Loaded. This is the crux of why Courting’s new album is so good: they are relatable both personally and politically, and make you laugh at the ridiculousness of life while they’re at it.
Courting has been on an upward trajectory since they burst onto the post-punk scene in early 2020 with their energetic witticisms and cacophonous guitars. From there, they have grown beyond their post-punk roots to include a wide range of experimental influences. A perhaps misleadingly titled debut LP, Guitar Music is a musical melting-pot of soundscapes: with influences as far and wide as Blur and Kanye West to Brian Eno and SOPHIE. Almost unbelievably, they’ve melded these influences into a cohesive record that is still firmly a part of, but not tied down by, the post-punk scene. Crass (Redux) blends industrial bleeps and glitches with heavy guitars and lyrical rage. Whilst Tennis is still familiarly post-punk, strongly reminiscent of Dry Cleaning and Sports Team. Cosplay/Twin Cities is bass-heavy and blinking, seeming to belong more to a dance bunker than an Indie band. Then we have Uncanny Valley Forever, an unexpectedly quiet and expansive eight minutes of moody sincerity and actual singing.
From their songs to their socials, everything about Courting is imbued with their cynical humour and self-deprecation, and their debut long-form offering is no different. Guitar Music is filled with tongue-in-cheek commentaries on controversial and topical issues. Loaded, their sardonic take on all things corporate capitalism, celebrity, and social media culture, is the epitome of this. Jumper could almost be read as a sincere love song, if it weren’t for a sound palette as sugary as a 00s rom-com and the band’s description of it as “a story of love...and oppositional film reviews.”
The city landscape, buildings and people, plays a significant part in Guitar Music. From the CGI high-rise of the album cover and the band’s outfits of suits worn just slightly punk to the lyrics running through the album: “These buildings all look the same / the concrete wraps around the low budget airlines” on Crass (Redux). “The cities are so strange / these people are so wild”, Sean yells on Loaded, and “the building was no angel” on PDA, a track where the influence of Animal Collective’s lyricism is clear.
So often, when guitar bands explore their pop and electronic influences, they end up losing something of what made them a great guitar band in the first place. However, Courting has completely turned this pattern on its head. It’s as though they’ve taken the “guitar music” their album is named after, added the ingredients for pop and electronic music, and ended up with “Courting music” – something that defies categorisation and is more than the sum of its parts.
Guitar Music has all the hallmarks of a debut to go down in the history books. Filled with all the angst, enthusiasm, and sarcastic tongue-in-cheek jokes of youth, it’s easily comparable to the debuts from the likes of Fontaines D.C. or the Vaccines. Every song is almost addictive: these short little pops of colour are filled with sarcastic comments, enthusiasm, and sometimes a surprising amount of honesty. And as a band that walks the line between the alternative and popular, the political and escapist, the familiar and the new, Courting’s versatility really might make them, as they so often joke, “maybe the best band in the world.”
Guitar Music is out now everywhere on Play It Again Sam. Listen on Spotify and YouTube