Between cavorting around stages across the North West, gaining a first play on BBC Radio 1, planting a two footer into footballing obsession and likening love to noisy Northern Rail Pacer, COURTING have been remarkably busy in an effort to gain your attention.
Made up of Sean Murphy-O’Neill (vocals, guitar), Sean Thomas (drums, vocals), Sam Brennan (bass) and Michael Downes (guitar), Courting’s sound is difficult to define. There is no clear common structure between both of their singles Not Yr Man and Football, besides smashing guitar riffs and echoing reverb, which all adds to a cluster of noise which climaxes as sonic brilliance. It is for this reason that they really are a one-to-watch.
Offering some self-analysis, “Cowbell-core” is the first word uttered by Sean Murphy-O’Neill when asked to give his soundbite on Courting’s distinctive style. This isn’t a surprise – yes, really. Anyone who has attended their live shows so far knows exactly where he is coming from. Each time, around halfway through their set, O’Neill can be seen parading a cowbell above his head and chanting along to their newly released single Football – a track that sprints ahead on its bassline, is then forcibly shoulder charged by jagged guitar and piercing vocals, all the while offering damning statements on societal issues. All this in less than two minutes of injury time has generated a deserved buzz.
Ironically, Courting admit that the song is concentrating on the basic principle of football being an “omnipresent feature in British society”, while also drawing on complete rejection of a traditional ‘pop-star’ trajectory of creating music in an attempt to (in their own words) “solely make their family rich and famous”. Their opinions on societal dilemmas are refreshing, but are easily lost in the field of artists which suddenly assimilate to the same liberal mush. The true colours of Courting’s ideology lie somewhere between rejection of the banal everyday and a cordial acceptance of impending doom.
And yet, breaking through the expansive, grey Brutalist construct in which Courting reside, there are flickers of Romanticism. You can observe this in their onstage commitment, with present shades of the same ‘love and loss’ conundrum every band seamlessly tends to flirt with. With the two single releases behind them, Courting concede “It’s very difficult to write a song about love or loss in a way that hasn’t already been done.” The softer guitar riff towards the end of their debut single Not Yr Man (ignore the rest of the song for a minute), these few seconds could easily soundtrack a first dance or a final conversation. Here is the first breadcrumb that leads to a mellower Courting, one that can and should be followed. But don’t be fooled for too long; the four-piece will come crashing back into reality with lyrics such as “Let me be your Northern Rail I wanna let you down” – ironically, a line that’s always on time when hurled forward by O’Neill.
Courting outline Pavement as one of their most telling inspirations – O’Neill states that “I love a lot of [Pavement’s] stuff. I always feel as though they can hit an emotional nerve without sounding dire or depressing.” Perhaps the epitome of Courting’s songwriting lurks somewhere near to this comment, simultaneously delivering both crashing riffs and tongue-in-cheek, observational lyricism.
As a closing sentiment, O’Neill asks “Please don’t take us too seriously,” adding: “Life would be a bit boring if we all just discussed economics. Music tends to make me feel happier than market conditions do.” While a witty response, there is a contradiction in this. Label-less, they’ve consistently publicised their own gigs, traversing the music scene alone. A support slot alongside Coventry rabble Feet back in October may be their biggest achievement to date. The trials and tribulations of surfing the industry wave are just the first hurdles for Courting to clear. And clear them they have. After creating their own merchandise, posters, or pin badges, when all is said and done, O’Neill acknowledges “Life without art would just be a bit shit.”
The messy, hazy image of Courting still refrains from loading clearly. At this moment, what can be seen is a colour splashed four-piece, determined to attack the poignancy of existence with goofy lyrics and crashing guitar riffs. The perfect medicine to any problem we should encounter – all while smashing a few cowbells. Long may it continue.
Courting headline Phase One on 28th March.