Monday, July 17, 2006

Razor's Edge

All my own opinion, not work related etc etc....

In an extraordinary spirit of generosity, when one of my colleagues handed me a copy of Razorlight’s self-titled second album this morning, I decided I’d give it a chance. The record has been described as ‘insanely ambitious’ in various sections of the press, but I’d suggest ‘cocky’ and ‘nakedly commercial’ as more accurate descriptions before I reached for the plaudits. To be fair, the band have certainly moved well beyond the Strokes-lite rifferama of ‘Up All Night’ into rather more distastefully anthemic territory. The opening ‘In The Morning’, with its taut guitars and clamorous drumming, along with ‘Pop Song 2006’ and ‘Back To The Start’, provide some sort of connection between the two records – but for the most part, Johnny Borrell seems to be looking more to Bon Jovi than Television this time around.

Pretty much all the songs are insanely infectious, and it’s therefore not difficult to understand their mass appeal. The band sound tight, controlled and fresh, and it’s easy to see these songs filling arenas up and down the country. All this wouldn’t be quite so objectionable if Borrell wasn’t so infuriatingly drawn to cliché and platitude. There are lyrics here that make Richard Ashcroft look like Walt Whitman. As if the single’s bland assertion that ‘in the morning, you know we won’t remember a thing’ isn’t bad enough, Borrell then repeats the same line verbatim on ‘Kirby’s House’. It was barely worth him opening his mouth the first time. Elsewhere, we get ‘Who Needs Love?’ a shallow, ugly song about rejecting relationships – an idea that could produce something interesting and individual given some thought and more articulate self-expression. ‘Hold On’ is a giant sugar rush, but this kind of sentiment is so familiar now as to be meaningless, particularly in this rather lightweight context. Worse still is the attempt at ballad-tempo reflection in ‘America’, where Borrell repeats ‘All my life, I’ve been watching America/All my life, there’s panic in America’. The song then proceeds to tell us nothing terribly interesting about his life or about the vast landmass of its title.

From a man who already claims to have written more great songs than Bob Dylan, we might reasonably expect some insight or intelligence, but ‘Razorlight’ is parked firmly in the middle of the road. As for the question of ‘ambition’, this certainly stakes Borrell’s claim to be a vacuous, posturing rock star, but listening to this next to ‘Born Sandy Devotional’ from The Triffids, a significantly more questing and richly poetic record first released 20 years ago, helped put it all in perspective.

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