Review Summary: Likeable, consistent and containing some genuine quality, this debut album is let down by a lack of variation and a derivative feel amongst other flaws.
With the onset of seemingly hundreds of British bands filling the gap between Brit-Pop, Indie-Rock and Post-Punk in the new millennium, it seems that the most successful of them distinguish themselves by either being very good or containing some other factor to draw attention. Razorlight are a little bit of both. Out front, lead vocalist Johnny Borrell is not short on confidence, once describing himself as “one part Orson Welles & one part Bob Dylan”… Righteo then! Thankfully, he is not all talk if this debut album is anything to go by.
Borrell is actually quite talented on the microphone as the solid opener ‘Leave Me Alone’ proves. Oozing attitude with his drawl-like vocals, the track gains momentum with positive enthusiasm and proves to be a good indication of the type of music that the band perform without giving away all their tricks. The following 2 cuts (1st single ‘Rock N Roll Lies’ and 5th single ‘Vice’) are really extensions of the opener more than anything else, as they subtly build upon it with greater accessibility and hooks.
While all 3 of those tracks which kick off the album are actually quite good, they give away a couple of the flaws of this LP. There is a similar sound amongst many of the tracks with only minor variations. Later, this is also evident in songs such as the vocal reliant ‘Which Way Is Out’, padded out ‘Don’t Go Back To Dalston’ and pace-switching ‘Get It and Go’.
Furthermore, while there is nothing that is too obviously a facsimile, the album is admittedly derivative to a point. A track like ‘Vice’ is reminiscent of The Strokes, with its slower verses leading to a louder and faster chorus. And elsewhere, influences from the likes of Lou Reed, as well as many of their Brit-Pop and Post-Punk colleagues are also evident. The music is also so simply played that it is quite likely that you will feel that you have heard a tune or riff somewhere before.
Yet, while the flaws are apparent, this is simply an impossible album to dislike due to its consistency. The title track begins methodically and then builds up extremely well on the back of hooky guitars and effective vocals, while the just over two minute satisfyingly fun 2nd single ‘Rip It Up’ literally does what it says by being an up-tempo body-mover that is energetic from beginning to end. Just don’t go over the lyrics of these tracks with a fine tooth comb or else you may end up throwing a quizzical look towards Borrell.
It initially appears as if this debut will head downhill fast when at the midpoint ‘Don’t Go Back To Dalston’ shows a complete lack of depth by padding out its last 90 seconds with repetitive gang vocals. However, along comes 4th single ‘Golden Touch’ and 3rd single ‘Stumble and Fall’, both of which are more conventionally structured than most, but are impressive in their charm and ability to appeal to a wide audience. Along with track 10 ‘Get It and Go’ they restore order with what are effective track placements.
However, this is partially undone by nonsensically placing the following 3 songs in succession. ‘In The City’ and ‘To The Sea’ are not only the 2 longest tracks here, but they are arguably the most different. Isolated, they are solid and add variety, but they would have been more effective interspersed throughout the album or having one excluded. To make things even more unbalanced, the short, slow and mostly ineffective ballad ‘Fall Fall Fall’ follows. That is where the original version of the album ends, but thankfully a 2005 re-release saw a 6th single ‘Somewhere Else’ added to end ‘Up All Night’ on a high note. Charmingly not too dissimilar to ‘Golden Touch’, this also book-ends the album thematically with opener ‘Leave Me Alone’.
While Razorlight’s debut ‘Up All Night’ is likeable, consistent and contains some genuine quality, it cannot be rated too highly due to the flaws it contains. With many tracks sounding similar to others and 14 songs in all, the album seems overlong at 50 minutes. Add to that the derivative feel, some lazy writing and the lack of catchy hooks and it is easy to see why some listeners would dismiss this release. However, the album just has that certain something which stands out and it is very effective overall with barely a dud amongst the 14 tracks.
Recommended Tracks: Golden Touch, Up All Night, Rip It Up & Somewhere Else (the latter is only contained on the 2005 re-release of the album).