Back in the 70’s it wasn’t uncommon for the average hairy rock band to emblazon phrases like “Made to be played LOUD!” on their record sleeves. That practice, thankfully, seems to have disappeared over time. But, if there’s any current music that warrants that sentiment, it’s the music made by Vancouver’s the Courtneys.
A power trio made up of drummer and lead vocalist Jen Twynne Payne, guitarist Courtney Loove (not to be confused with Courtney Love) , and bassist Sydney Koke , the band sounds like Juliana Hatfield fronting a more pop Sonic Youth. Payne’s voice draws you in, surging sweetly on waves of fuzzed guitar and rumbling bass, the musicians capable of cruising at a spirited clip or just as easily dropping into a tight groove. The sound on their recent second release, simply titled II, overflows with energy, sparks, and tunefulness – all wrapped up in songs about crushes, vampires, alien abductions and finding one’s direction and place in life. They’re nuggets delivered from the viewpoint of youth, which helps give them their freshness and fire.
Opening track and single “Silver Velvet” encapsulates the main approach: economical models of pop song perfection with an edge.
“Lost Boys” (a tribute to the 1986 teen vampire film of the same name) gives the group some space to stretch out, the album version clocking in at nearly 7:00 minutes.
Elsewhere, “Iron Deficiency” echoes Courtney Barnett (another Courtney?!) in its matter of fact spoken word style. At the same time, the backing instrumentation is very Sonic Youth-esque and it’s not a stretch to picture Kim Gordon singing/reciting this one. On “Mars Attacks”, the band sound like a cheerleading squad from an alternate dimension as they sing “It’s day! It’s night! It’s dark! It’s light! No time to hide, they come tonight!” (If seeking this one out, be sure to avoid the older version where they pair up with some rap guy…just my opinion, but it really doesn’t fit.)
The Courtneys create a dimension I’m happy to enter, as this is some of the most fun, uplifting, and just plain cool stuff I’ve heard in ages.
Hey, why not listen to the whole album on Bandcamp?