Album Review: Barns Courtney – The Attractions of Youth

By on Thursday, 28th September 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Album CoverBritish-American rocker Barns Courtney apparently has only one speed setting, and it’s full throttle, all the time. He’s been on a fast track to success since his appearance at last year’s SXSW 2016.  At the time, his collection of released music was a bit haphazard. He had a pair of blazing singles, ‘Fire’ and ‘Glitter & Gold’, propelling his momentum, and he released an EP titled ‘Hands’ later that year. But the long-term project of recording a full album seemed to be a bit of a challenge, especially given his relentless live schedule. Fast forward to autumn 2017, and Courtney’s highly anticipated LP is ready for release, primed for consumption by over a year’s worth of touring on both sides of the pond. The album, aptly titled ‘The Attractions of Youth’, is as full of piss and vinegar as Courtney himself, bursting with the fire and enthusiasm of a young artist on the edge of massive stardom.

Most of the songs on ‘The Attractions of Youth’ aren’t new to fans who have been following Courtney on the live circuit. But the album cuts are every bit as powerful as his live performances: his production team have definitely found the sweet spot in that regard. First impressions being the strongest, the album opens with established single ‘Fire’, easily its most powerful individual track, followed in quick succession by ‘Glitter & Gold’. From there, a refreshed version of gritty EP track ‘Hands’ is followed by the relatively sweet recent single ‘Golden Dandelions’, which for all its sentimental romance manages not to sap away the breakneck pace of the tracklisting.

As blindingly good as the first part of the album is, its real gems start to come out later in the sequence, starting with the spoken introduction to ‘Hobo Rocket’. In this track, Courtney displays both an ironic sense of humour and a musical awareness I might not have given him credit for on first glance. Centered on a theme of homelessness and desperation, the song’s energy takes flight in the chorus, “gonna fly on my hobo rocket / outta time, nothing in my pocket”. It’s a musical reference that somehow manages to conjure two different Beck songs, ‘Loser’ and ‘Where It’s At’, and is quite simply awesome. The subtle artistry is further solidified in the following studio-manipulated interlude ‘Hobo Outside Tesco, London’. [Is he hoping for a grocery store advert sync? – Ed.]

Current single ‘Champion’ is another rock anthem tailor-made for a sporting soundtrack. Courtney’s husky singing voice works remarkably well in the fire-and-brimstone context, and the song’s lyrics about rising from the ashes are both darkly determined and uplifting in the same vein as Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’. The bruised and swollen ‘Never Let You Down’ (streaming below) is more angular and slickly polished, with a jangling piano added to the instrumentation and a hypnotically groovy instrumental bridge. ‘Goodbye John Smith’ and ‘Little Boy’ demonstrate Courtney’s folkier sensibilities, the former showing an exquisite sensitivity in the vocal delivery, while the latter takes on a charming Americana feel.

Courtney once again goes balls to the wall in the characteristically unapologetic rock anthem ‘Rather Die’, where his delivery is nothing short of absolutely convincing in the lyric “I take a beating but I’ll never give up, I think I’d rather die”. But he saves one final surprise for the album’s close. Eponymous track ‘The Attractions of Youth’ dials back the intensity, but only slightly, as Courtney once again turns on his sarcastic humour in a deliberately over-the-top, circus-style album finale.

The rapid-fire success of Barns Courtney’s early singles is firmly validated with ‘The Attractions of Youth’. The album’s 14 tracks could possibly have been culled down a bit, but in total, they serve to display the voracious hunger behind Courtney’s skyrocket to commercial fame. And though such early success is often volatile and short-lived, Courtney has also demonstrated a compelling intellectual artistry that will sustain his career beyond the initial flash in the pan.

9/10

Barns Courtney’s debut LP ‘The Attractions of Youth is due out tomorrow, the 29th of September, on Virgin EMI. Courtney will finish his current UK tour with a show at London’s Dingwalls on the 5th of October. TGTF’s previous coverage of Barns Courtney is right back here.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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