Review Summary: Johnny Foreigner 3-0 Everything: gorgeous, daring and exhilarating from start to finish.
I've said some pretty bold things about Johnny Foreigner over the last few years, from vowing to abandon all hope in my generation if the band went unnoticed, to declaring them the "Radiohead of indie-punk" (heh) whilst slightly too drunk one autumn evening. My defence - in both cases - writhes in the dizzying climax of "Salt, Peppa and Spindarella"; I challenge you to think clearly amidst all that, anyhow. For a moment, though (and just in case
you never did read them), let's forget my entirely warranted statements of acclaim and look instead to the Birmingham rockers' own
thoughts on LP3: "It's exactly as perfect/imperfect as we are, and if it fails IRL, then it does so as proof we just aren't good enough. Heavy."
Sure, lots of bands say that kind of thing, but lots of bands also don't have two albums under their belts as heartfelt and as impulsive as Johnny Foreigner's debut and its successor - the anthem-packed Waited Up 'til It Was Light
and the messier Grace And The Bigger Picture
, respectively. All chaotic guitars and crazily addictive hooks up to now, it's fair to say the intensity doesn't let up on their third full-length, even if it does at points take a very different, and quite special, form. Needless to say, this is not a band paralysed by the fear of failure, but one energised by the prospect of success to the point of creating one of the most exhilarating and charming records of the year.
Because where Grace
suffered slightly from a lack of breathing space (tour records can do that), Johnny Foreigner vs Everything
finds the band taking the time to inhale deeper, giving their explosions all the more force in the meantime. These are still songs about all the same things Johnny Foreigner have touched on before - touring, putting your faith in music for better or worse, and the tragedies and comedies that take place in town centres and capital cities every hazy night. But while the staples are all still there - adrenaline-packed rock numbers like "What Drummers Get" - these tracks are built from Casio keyboards as well as screeching guitar lines, and so they burst and swell in unpredictable and gorgeous ways.
And at a point where early-career RIYLs Los Campesinos! are stripping their sound of all abrasive quality, it's incredible to see Johnny Foreigner seize the opportunity to throw in everything they stand for both in essence and in detail. Be it the "musique concrète" of the album's two interludes (comprising voice clips from fans) or the devastating crescendo of "New Street, You Can Take It" which sees Alexei Berrow get lost under a chorus of friends and colleagues, Johnny Foreigner vs Everything
is packed to the brim with risks minute and massive. Above all, this is a record written and produced by three musicians that take absolutely nothing for granted; they prove time and time again their dedication for pouring heart and soul into every hook, every story, every quirk.
So in short, I was right, and Johnny Foreigner had literally nothing to worry about. I don't feel like a fool, not even for the Radiohead comparison, as Johnny Foreigner vs Everything
follows its own lyric booklet's counsel that the map is not the territory, knocking down walls to get further inside and outside itself than the band has ever managed before. So thanks for that, Johnny Foreigner, but more than anything, thanks for this, because despite its hyperactive tendencies and its scale there hasn't been another record released this year as gorgeous and completely owned by a band as Everything
, and fortunately, with Johnny Foreigner, that means you sort of own it too. This one's a whitewash, folks.
I'm not done with this, I'm not giving in, I'm not giving up on you, we just got older; fireworks mark nothing worse than this