The band dig deeper than ever before, exploring human existence...

Known for the poetic depiction of the grittier side of life, the quality and autonomy of Liam Fray’s songwriting continues to shine and inspire. Courteeners’ sixth studio record looks at the world in and around us, and is more forceful than any album previously released by the authentic Manchester band.

A questioning, critical and honest record, it digs deeper than before. Its insistence on the supply of depth makes darkness hard to avoid, and the band leave no stone unturned on that front. Over the course of the 10 tracks on ‘More. Again. Forever’ the complexity of what it means to be human in this day and age is placed under the microscope. As serious and existential as this may sound, it is hardly surprising that this project is no lightweight affair.

First up is the album’s pumping, in-your-face stomper of a track ‘Heart Attack’ immediately followed by ‘Heavy Jacket’, two songs that make you sit up and listen. Then, things are brought down in pace with the poetic, spoken-word, bass focused album title track.

The need for self-improvement and to be a better person is articulated. “I’m trying to be a better man, whatever that is. It’s slightly disconcerting no direction, no set plan. I’m trying to be better man, whatever that is, nobody’s perfect,” declares Fray on the melodic R.E.M-like ‘Better Man’.

The application of a broad sound palette makes this album rich and varied, and there is register as well as texture. Lush string arrangements and romantic sentiments appear on ‘Hanging Off Your Cloud’ acting as a fine contrast to some of the darker, heavier tracks at the start of the record. It feels as though a consistent search for balance underpins the record, and each conflict is expressed through a change in vibe, instrumentation and pace.

Elsewhere, a song like ‘Take It On the Chin’ offers irony and humour. Seemingly focused on detecting the surrealist aspect everyday life can bring, the chosen scenario plays out in a therapist’s practice. While tracks such as ‘The Joy of Missing Out’ and One Day At a Time’ represent some of the more classic, bog standard Courteeners moments with all the immediacy, rawness and poetry that is involved. The final track ‘Is Heaven Even Worth It?’ is a beautiful, but emotionally resigned reflection on having tried as hard as possible but not necessarily achieved the desired outcome.

Ultimately, this is still Courteeners, only bigger, bolder, and stronger than before, and even more powerful than we remember them. ‘More. Again. Forever’ shows a band who insist on exploring, learning and get closer to the truth about life and human existence, and there is just no way that this can ever, ever, be a bad thing.

8/10

Words: Susan Hansen

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