Liverpool quartet Courting are a band that refuse to play by the rules. In a sonic landscape of post-punk resurgence, the band have taken the ingredients of the genre and thrown it into a blender. ‘guitar music’ is Courting’s debut full-length, a nine-track thirty-minute punch in the face: a cacophony of slick lyrics, excellent hooks and a whole load of noise.
‘Twin Cities’ opens the record, its introduction being a thirty-second Mellotron and piano instrumental, before the band flip a switch and throws the track into a distorted SOPHIE-esque beat. Vocalist Sean Murphy-O’Neill delivers a deadpan performance over the top of a frantic electronic beat, repeating the ‘more buildings, twin cities’ hook. The AutoTune across ‘guitar music’ is a refreshing progression in the genre, coming off as a clever creative choice rather than a tacky one. The instrumental on the opener becomes increasingly unstable as the track progresses, adding more and more jarring and sharp textures. It flows smoothly into lead single ‘Tennis’, a track which commits to their post-punk roots but still adds these newly discovered hyperpop elements into the equation.
‘Famous’ is what happens if you let four lads with guitars listen to a lot of Aphex Twin, and the result is incredible. Feeling like it could have been lifted from a 90s-teen-movie soundtrack, ‘Famous’ is everything that makes Courting Courting. Witty lyricism, a heavy yet melodic foundation and some wild guitar work courtesy of guitarist Josh Cope, the track is the highlight of the record – an absolute feat considering the calibre of every track on ‘guitar music’. The redux of ‘Crass’ is also a nice moment on the record, a little throwback to their earlier work but amped up with these new electronic elements.
‘Uncanny Valley Forever’ is the penultimate moment on ‘guitar music’, an eight-minute dose of wild ideas and sweet lyrics. The constant shapeshifting of the track makes it an enticing listen rather than a drawn-out drag. It goes from softer and sweeter to louder and noisier in the blink of an eye, closing out with a passage not unlike something Daughters or Death Grips would put out. Despite this, it flips back into its gentler 90s-rock moments and executes these just as well as the noisy ones. Coming in at just over half-an-hour, ‘guitar music’ is a perfectly measured dose of music. On the surface, a hyperpop post-punk album should never work. But somehow, by some distorted miracle, Courting pulls it off – in the best way imaginable. In a landscape of so many albums regurgitating overbaked sounds, Courting have redefined guitar music. Instead of using the guitar as a songwriting tool, they use it as a weapon.
Words: James Mellen