New Last Name by Courting album review by Robin Green for Northern Transmissions


New Last Name


Surrounded by emerging UK alternative acts, genre-hoppers Courting stand out from their peers. From their home of Liverpool, the foursome have been releasing music for a few years now. Their 2020 single “Popshop!” is an ambitious and catchy debut that carries a sentiment we’ve all heard before: success, especially where the music industry is concerned, can too often come at the expense of one’s own freedoms. The result is a Britpop track for the 21st century. The band’s 2022 full-length Guitar Music brought us “Tennis”, a bass-driven tune where singer Sean Murphy-O’Neill delivers a humorous tale of paying for sex delivered in a steady deadpan that wouldn’t feel amiss on an Idles EP.

Courting’s upcoming sophomore album New Last Name is a 15 year old unearthed Myspace comment, filled with youthful yearning and a mid-aughts nostalgia. The band have been described as both post punk and hyperpop, with their “Songs That Inspired ‘New Last Name’” playlist containing everything from Bladee to Prince to early Fall Out Boy. The album opens strong with “Throw”, four minutes of rhythmic pop punk that makes unrequited love sound bearable. Upheld by drummer Sean Thomas with basslines from Connor McCann, it sets the tone of the album as Murphy-O’Neill repeats “If someone’s God really made you look that pretty/I would throw my back out prayin’”. The track dissolves into a tangle of guitars behind a repeated chorus reminiscent of summer 2007.

Just as they did on Guitar Music, Courting throws us for a loop. For every steadfast rock song on the album, there’s a song with synth beats slipped in, another using autotune to soften any hard edges they might have. This works at times, but the tracks that stand out for me are the ones with clearer vocals. “Flex” uses a trumpet to pull us through wistful days of longing in the digital age, complete with a direct reference to The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” and a hopeful, funny declaration of “I just wanna ball out with my friends”. “Emily G” and the album’s final track “America” fall into a similar category. With their noisy glitches and guitarist Josh Cope’s soft chords, both tracks manage to capture heartbreak while mentioning the year 2009.

The third single released this year, “We Look Good Together (Big Words)”, is a bright spot on the album. With electric drum fills and clean chords reminiscent of New Order, Courting have decided to stick 80s synthpop in a world where the IPod nano exists. “Babys” brings in a piano and Joe Gordon Potts provides notes from a saxophone, a calming intermission that leads into “The Wedding” before the LP wraps up.

With the band often wielding giant swords and posts advertising the album as if it were a play, Courting knows how to pull us into their world, insistent that we all recognize their sense of humor as well as their songwriting. Though I can see myself streaming this fifteen years ago via patchy dial-up internet, New Last Name is out January 26th, 2024, on Lower Third Records.

Pre-order New Last Name by Courting HERE


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