In 1987, the Smiths split. In 1992, Factory Records declared bankruptcy. In 2001, Happy Mondays parted ways for a second time. In 2002, the Hacienda was demolished to make way for the soulless Hacienda apartments. Bearing this in mind, moving to Manchester in 2003 felt like turning up to the office party five minutes after the free bar has run out. Anyone who's anyone has moved on to greener, fresher pastures and all that's left are the dregs, the supporting acts desperately trying to recapture some of the magic that went before.
The only prior knowledge I had of Middleton band Courteeners is the association between their anthemic song Not Nineteen Forever and the 2013 success of my football club Manchester United. Before you start filling up the comments, you are in the midst of the last laugh as we all watch a succession of managers run the team into the ground – don't try and have your cake and eat it.
The band's latest offering, Mapping The Rendezvous, is their fifth studio album and from the first track, I knew what I was to experience was not so much an album but a tour around the city that has taken me under its wing. The record opens with Lucifer's Dreams, a song that took me back to student life and more specifically to the endless nights spent at indie club 5th Ave on Princess Street. While other student nights pandered to the 'beautiful people' that are the butt of the song's joke, you could always rely on 5th Ave to provide you with flooded toilets, a sticky dancefloor and cheap vodka.
From there, we end up at every Fallowfield house party I ever attended in the song Kitchen. With lyrics like 'when the night's not finished and you're looking for someone to kick on with' and 'realization's hard to swallow, we're not going to work tomorrow', the song perfectly encapsulates the responsibility-free attitudes of youth. Reckless abandon, severed apron strings and the desperate need to not be waking up alone when the sun casts its 'mad man's silhouette'.
The sobering De La Salle will always make me think of Salford for reasons that only I and a few close to me will know. It is a song that touched me on such a personal level that I both never want to hear it again and also never want to forget a single word.
Most Important takes me to the iron bridge in Kings Road in Stretford, to the graffiti dedications to perhaps the best band Manchester has every produced. Memories of two teenagers who met at a Patti Smith concert and went on to create beautiful music together. With themes of regret, the song can't help but make me yearn greedily for an alternate reality. We were gifted five years of The Smiths. What could have happened had we been given five more?
Our tour comes to a climax with The 17th, a slowly building track that speaks to me of modern Manchester life. It speaks to me of the workers, the families, the ordinary 'Matchstalk Men' upon which the city is built. Making ends meet, doing whatever it takes. Hiding from the bailiffs, vilified at every turn and all the while finding time to enjoy life and form the strongest community bonds that exist in this country. It was a perfect note on which to finish.
This album made me nostalgic for the Manchester that I know and a Manchester that I never got to experience. It is a feeling that is summed up by tracks No One Will Ever Replace Us and Tip Toes. Both speak of young love, first love. The first from a perspective of an idealistic couple, the second from a thirtysomething looking back on his teenage years. Manchester is a city that has evolved musically in the last thirty years but that does not mean that where we are now takes anything away from the hedonistic idealism that went before. Mapping The Rendezvous is a remarkable achievement and a must-listen for anyone who has a connection with the city.
Then again, I might be wrong. I am a Musical Moron, after all...
Lyric Of The Week
“When we were 18, you said we'd meet up when we were 30
And see where the land lies, but now we're fucked 'cause there isn't landlines”
Tell tales of young love and bring
Manchester to life
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