In what is a refrain that's surely been repeated by other writers who've covered this band, I've got to say that while Flying Nun Records is known as the home of seminal New Zealand acts, it's soon going to get known for being the home of The Courtneys too. The Vancouver-based group hails from the other side of the planet than The Clean or The Chills but the band's music fits nicely on this label's roster, judging from new album, II, out now. And, if you insist on somehow linking this one up with the legacy of Flying Nun Records, one could say that The Courtneys are updating the Look Blue Go Purple template. But, really, that might be too obscure a reference for all the people who are seriously going to enjoy this fine new album.
Opener "Silver Velvet" kicks things off with a blend of classic indie in the style of Blake Babies, or solo Juliana Hatfield, all big hooks and sharp guitar lines, while the more languid "Minnesota" unwinds like stuff from that second, underrated Belly record. While The Courtneys hail from north of the border, they, clearly, are in debt to a lot of acts from the heyday of American indie. And yet, to say this is not meant to peg this group as a bunch of revivalists as upbeat numbers like "Tour" are closer cousins to Courtney Barnett's fairly recent singles than they are to stuff from the U.S. college charts some 2 decades ago. And while there's lots here that is pure fuzzy guitar rock there's loads that is a good deal more adventurous. The epic-length "Lost Boys" rages like The Muffs or Fuzzy in spots but it's closer to being a Sonic Youth number with more directly charming lyrics. Elsewhere, the spry "Virgo" updates Nineties indie styles with a direct and winning approach, while the Helen Love-like power-pop of "Mars Attacks" adds a trace of C86-style wit to the proceedings. At times here on II, like on the woozy-edged "Country Song", The Courtneys seem to be heirs to the promise of those early Bettie Serveert records, the glory days of alt-rock brought back to life.
For all my talk above of those other, earlier bands -- worthy comparisons all -- The Courtneys are making something fresh and nearly-joyous in its embrace of guitar-based indie-pop. II is remarkably affecting and I can't see how anyone wouldn't love this one as much as I did.
[Photo: Uncredited photo from the band's Facebook page]