If there’s anyone who hasn’t lost complete touch over the ever-fleeting artistry of social commentary rock, it would undoubtedly have to be the Brits. Championing the genre as what might be a post-post-punk reaction to the spawn of angsty British lyricism, Courting have recently released a 4-track debut EP that delivers a wonderfully refined twist to contemporary British rock in a way we haven’t seen for quite a while. In recent years, fast-paced, talk-singing punk bands like IDLES, Shame, Black Midi, and Black Country, New Road, have come to dominate the British indie and underground rock scene, paving the way for a new-age niche punk genre, lyrically packed with political criticisms and socially charged objections to the systems we’ve found ourselves uncomfortably embedded into. Courting’s mission with their music more than adequately follows suit from this distinct style, however within an arguably more derisive– cheeky, even–lyrical framework.
Rhythmically sound and anticipatory in its build of angst, Grand National covers an impressive scope of socially perceptive topics. At the forefront of the band’s social revelations, however, is blunt in the name: the Grand National is a prominent horse racing event that takes place annually in Liverpool, England (their city of origin). This obvious expression of contempt for events like the British Grand National perfectly matches the overriding theme of the EP’s lyrical sentiment. Singer Sean Murphy O’Neill’s abrasive chants resonate with me as a collective frustration that many young revolutionaries–as well as casual social observers–increasingly share: something about feeling ridiculously unattuned to some of the similarly abuse-ridden practices as horse-racing. Themes that appear throughout Grand National’s musical dialogue are society’s persistent devotion to practices of capitalism, mundane yet obnoxious displays of wealth, along with the generally exploitative nature of pop culture, music, and art. Sarcasm, humour, and wit encompass the EP’s thematic makeup, accompanied by deliveries of very valid criticisms and catchy, gritty guitar riffs. The EP begins with an outright objection of British national norms and values, found abundantly in Grand National, weeds through scattered ideas surrounding casual elitism present in various British social arenas, and resolves on justified jabs at the confusing yet enduring influences of Kanye West and Ed Sheeran. In fact, that’s kind of all that “PopShop!” is about. The song delves into the dire state of popular music and musicians: an unceasing cycle of often problematic pop icons dominating charts, and producing the same disposable yet generically profitable sounds. Furthermore, “Popshop!” chants on about other long-standing issues of the music industry, such as the age-old theme of selling out to corporate ownership and labels’ soul-sucking tactics of artist exploitation.
Between their contemplations over lawn culture being kind of odd and unnecessary, and their more critical takes on social media’s tight grip over our priorities and perception of reality–Courting have devised an astonishingly catchy, and tastefully punk, first EP. With only a few songs out before Grand National, it serves as an exciting introduction to the musical potential of Courting, a group of four nonconformist Brits clearly committed to their authenticity, and more importantly, to never selling out.
Check out the EP on all major streaming platforms and Bandcamp, link below.