Dubbed by musos worldwide as the ‘dreaded second album’, it seems a lot is at stake when a band whose first album had us all begging for more announces their impending follow up. Vampire Weekend avoided it with Contra, as did Lisa Hannigan with Passenger. Others? Not so lucky. Who could forget – or rather, would like to forget – The View’s second release Which Bitch? Or perhaps even more so, The Stone Roses’ follow up to their self-titled debut, Second Coming? Exactly.
Vancouver guitar-pop trio, The Courtneys rest firmly in the former group. That is, acts that don’t disappoint with that testing second album. A subsequent release to 2013’s The Courtneys, The Courtneys II is an album full of feel-good guitar tunes that manage to be both garage and pop all at once.
Fans of The Courtneys will recognise the poppy hooks and the no-frills feel to their tracks that have followed the band into their second release. The music-making formula has stayed pretty much the exact same and it works. The saying ‘if it aint broke, don’t fix it’ comes to mind, which some could look at as a lack of progress or maturity. However when a band gives us such pure and honest music, why would we want it to change?
The album is one of those where you won’t want to skip any tracks – though it does have its standouts. The opener, ‘Silver Velvet’, for example, starts the album on a whirlwind of gradually turning up the volume until you wish you could blast it up to 11. Its relentless guitar riff builds up to the singalong chorus of singer Jen Payne belting out the lyrics ‘And nothing you say, and nothing you do, could stop me from thinking about you’. And we are all suddenly 16 and smitten again.
In ‘Tour’, we’re taken out on the road with Payne, Sydney Koke (bass, vocals) and Courtney Loove (guitar, vocals) as the song paints a vivid picture of road-tripping from gig to gig. Windows down, instruments in tow, music blaring and – obviously – sun shining. Contrasting with the scratchy guitar throughout, the solo is pure, unadulterated bubblegum.
In homage to the 1987 American horror film of the same name, ‘Lost Boys’ has a lot going for it. The lyrics give it an adventurous feel from the beginning with opening line “take me on a motorcycle, flying down the highway we go, heading in the wrong direction”. The drumming rhythm guitar is later accompanied by a polyphonic, addictive guitar hook which is subtle enough not to interfere with the vocals, but also stands out in its perfect, jangly form.
The Courtneys II is an extension of their previous release, giving us a whole new assortment of songs that sound like The Courtneys we all know and love. Their style is simple and familiar, but they do it fantastically well. With the dreaded second album a winner in this case, let’s hope we’re not waiting as long for the next.