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For me Razorlight's debut, Up All Night, showed a lot of promise. Sure, it never felt as polished as some of the other early 00's crowd, but it presented something a little bit different, some decent indie pop tunes intermingled with some lesser-known heartfelt little jaunts. I was excited for what their second album would bring. I was disappointed.
Rather than pushing a little bit further from the safe shores of indie pop, Razorlight's self-titled album aims directly for those calm clear waters of pop hooks and unimaginative lyrics. It's as if the band have no desire to do anything more than wallow in a sea of contentment instead of adjusting to a constantly-changing musical landscape and it makes them, well, boring. Most bands that get to this point take at least 4 albums to do so - Razorlight managed it in 2.
Admittedly, as I read the album listing, the songs pop readily into my head, arguably demonstrating the album's prowess at spewing out memorable cheese. And, some of those are catchy songs - "Before I fall to pieces", "In the morning" and "Los Angeles Waltz" jumping out at me. But catchy can only be great when they're memorable, when you want to absorb every lyric and saviour the emotions elicited. And this album just doesn't give that.
Hopefully it's a symptom of the record studios demanding radio friendly tunes over truly original music, and not the undoing of a reasonably good musical talent, but this album just fails to deliver. It's nice. Your grandma would probably like it. But's it's just not interesting. Sure, give it a listen when you're driving to work or want your ears to feel like they're being bathed in tingly wallpaper paste, but don't expect anything from it.
In the early to mid 00's "indie" became the sound of music in Britain with any number of guitar based pop rock bands popping up to fill in the void left be Brit pop, bands such as Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs, Fratellies, Coldplay, Snow Patrol and Razorlight all sounded the same but different. Their core sounds were the same, and although Fratellies, Franz Ferdinand and Kaiser Chiefs were more "fun" in their music with cheeky lyrics and a more up tempo sound it seemed that the other three often tried to take themselves too seriously.
In 2003 Razorlight released their debut album "Up All Night" which although a solid effort and a good reception felt slightly too samey to other bands, most notably The Stroke, who many felt they had effectively ripped off. Several years later Razorlight followed up their original release with a much more serious sounding self titled album "Razorlight". A 10 track album that had huge success in the bands homeland of the UK and yet received very mixed views with some feeling it was over-rated garbage (and was actually nominated as one of the worst albums of the year) with magazines generally liking it and the sales figures loving it (it's since gone 4 times Platinum in the UK as well as having reached #1 in the charts).
The album opens with one of the most successful tracks on the disk "In the Morning" a standard sounding indie rock song, that although has a bit of a grown up feeling, is almost certainly about one night stands. With a solid delivery it's hard to criticise it for it's sound or stylistically other than to feel you've heard it all before a hundred times even if the words and tune have changed slightly. The lyrics do at times get a bit samey even if at other points they are intelligent.
"Who Needs Love" follows on in a similar vain of "Yeah it's good...but I've heard this before by someone else and with different words", That's somewhat the problem through out, a lot of the tracks are just very similar to other indie tracks with little variance between them. Sadly this is one of the poorest as the band have hardly made an attempt to show any thought in the track it's just a very very bog standard and dull track and you feel somewhat as though you've wasted 3 minutes of your time listening to it.
"Hold On" shows much more life than the previous track early on though quickly settles into a samey samey rhythm that seems to quickly kill off the track and it shows little in the way of originality, lyrics or vocals. Sadly after a solid start to the album this is a couple of poor tracks that leaves feeling as though it's time to take it out of the CD player, put it in it's case then take it to a charity shop and let some other poor fool buy it.
Then the album gets saved somewhat by the albums stand out track the brilliant "America", a song that really stands out on a disk of abstract mediocrity. The track is about couch potatoes in the US though with several changes in pace, clever lyrics and a great delivery it stands out as by far and away the best track on the disk showing more originality than pretty much the rest of the disk combined.
"Before I fall To Pieces" is a clever song and although it sounds like many other tracks it shows some though behind the lyrics, beating most the other tracks and yet at times musically it does sound similar to others it's a step up from the albums earlier tracks. For those that kept on with the album beyond the third track they may feel slightly lucky, though are probably still unsure on whether or not to torment themselves with any more of the album. The problem is that it does little to want to keep you listening.
"I can't stop this feeling" shows a bit of electric type of sounds at the beginning before the guitar staple kicks in and the vocals which as usual just do the same thing. Although the track is slowed form the others and clear, as if trying to be an indie ballad and seems to stand out just for that reason. Thankfully the change of pace and sound makes the album worth keeping with. Admittedly it's not a great indie ballad (to use the term again) but it's good enough to warrant giving the band another chance and listen to rest of the album hoping for something similar to be done again rather than the same indie sound that we were saturated with in the UK.
"Pop Song 2006" starts with some rather telling lyrics "Everyones given up" which sort of feels like the way I am after listening so far to this album, and maybe even how musicians felt at the time this came out. "Lets not bother trying to be different or original, lets admit we've given up with new ideas", sadly it shows but more annoyingly, Johnny Borrell's typical vocal delivery seems to be below par here and it actually sounds even more irritatingly average than previous tracks where Borrells vocals are solid.
"Kirby's house" was a track I loved the name of when I bought the album thinking of the little pink bubblegum like character from the Nintendo video games sadly this isn't quite on the level of what I was hoping for. Instead of being about a fun little pink character it seems to be about nothing much at all. It sounds like a typical Snow Patrol track, a lot of talking and noise with no purpose at all to it.
By now you're wondering how this didn't win the worst album of the year for 2006, sadly Robbie Williams released "Rudebox" that same year and the honour was to be yet another gong for Robbie. Though saying that "Back to the Start" (thankfully not a demand) is actually a catchy faster paced track that catches your attention and easily over shadows many of the other tracks. The faster pace, and the fact the band don't rely on the same thing over and over is a very welcome release from a formula that just wasn't working on the disk. Thankfully this is the penultimate track and had the band shown this level of sound I may have actually liked the album. Instead that album has felt like musical torture.
The album (finally) finishes with "Los Angeles Waltz" that for some reason my laptop is saying takes up 0bytes on media player. The track is another one of the few tracks that actually stands out, a much more fun to listen to track which takes a slower angrier tone than many of the other tracks on the disk, and after the previous track shows the band can do 2 good songs on the same disk but sadly when half of the albums tracks are nothing better than rubbish it's hard to recommend anyone should be buying this.
Containing band members from both England and Sweden, the Indie Roc band Razorlight brought their self-entitled second album in 2006 to follow on from the success that the group, led by lead vocalist Johnny Borrell, were able to gather when in 2004 they brought "Up All Night" with hits such as "Somewhere Else", "Stumble And Fall" and "Golden Touch".
1. "In The Morning"
The album gets going with one of the most popular songs from the album and what was the lead single to the album. I personally wasn't as impressed with it as I had with past material, but I couldn't say that this was a particularly weak track from the and as they lay down a pretty impressive set and liven things up here with this high-tempo, uplifting recording to kick the record off.
2. "Who Needs Love?"
The album moves on with this one as the Indie band get into one where they allow Turner to go off singing in a depressive tone about how love has done nothing but let him down and he doesn't need this kind of thing in his life to pull him down. It isn't particularly a very engaging song form them and so although the lyrics are thought-provoking, the overall standard isn't really al that high and so it stands as a weaker one.
3. "Hold On"
Here they come with what was the final single from the album. It didn't do as well as the rest, and I can't say that I can recall hearing it any time before going through the whole album, but it seems to stand out on the release as a tune that you can't really ignore as Turner tones down all of the sorts of things that annoyed me in their first album and the band come out with an empowering tune to recover from the track before it.
They move onto their second album ere and I have to say that of all the songs on the album, this one stood out as the best one for me as they come out with a tune which really forced me to connect with the subject mater as Tuner composes one where he talks on how exactly those who don't really get out much must feel bombarded by how overwhelming American culture is to people in the UK and how fed up he is of it.
5. "Before I Fall To Pieces"
Here you have another popular jam form the album and one that forces you to get down wit them as they down a tune that is able to suit the tastes of anyone as they come with an impressive high-tempo recording to just get you moving and to just get loose to. I thought that it deserved a better chart position than what it gained upon really (barely breaking the top twenty) and I was even more surprised when you consider that this came directly from a chart-topping "America".
6. "I Can't Stop This Feeling I've Got"
They throw in another single here, and in this case it is a much calmer one to show a good range of the things that the band is able to come out with (before a heavier breakdown later on in it). I found that with this one, I could feel what was said here, but in this particular one you find the lead singer choosing to turn back towards the types of things that held him back in the past and so I wasn't really as pleased with the results of this one.
7. "Pop Song 2006"
Here you get the band performing one where they perform a song where they try out something where it appears that they apparently trying to be funny in some way, but I wasn't quite getting it as they attempt to lay down a commercial tune and so do things in a bit of a Pop manner, but I personally didn't think there was enough to suggest that they had really changed there approach with this song, so it just stood as a typical song on the album (and in fact a step down for failing with a concept).
8. "Kirby's House"
With this one they perform a gentle and mid-tempo tune to calm things down a bit and do one where they appear to go back to the sorts of things that filled-out the first album they brought in 2004, and so i wasn't really impressed by it that much at all and I thought that it sounded like a bit step down form what came of earlier tunes on the record and it seemed to really hold it back as a result.
9. "Back To The Start"
With this one you have the band coming with a completely new-sounding tune to show that with this album they had actually musically progressed and not just simply refined their sound in order to come out with much more impressive songs as with this one they show more of their Punk influences to come out and form the main basis of the recording. It will you by surprise and is one of the best here.
10. "Los Angles Waltz"
They are seen to end the album on a song which has them pulling out more of the better material that they have to offer this time around and I felt that this was a massive boost to the record as they come out with a tune that rounds things off nicely and has them calming things with a songs which has them bringing together lots of the popular elements that formed the singles to end their second record on.
I saw this as a clearly improvement upon what came of their debut album and one which has them showing that they are making clear progression and keeping up with the times to come out with a decent album. It is flawed, but it certainly sides with the stronger material.
Producer: Razorlight, Chris Thomas
In the Morning
Who needs Love?
Before I Fall to Pieces
I Can't Stop This Feeling I've Got
Pop Song 2006
Back to the Start
Los Angeles Waltz
Now, I didn't see this coming! I needn't tell you the copious amount of reasons as to why I didn't get on with Razorlight's debut LP (see my review of Up All Night), but rather, let us concentrate on the here and now by reviewing their self-titled second album.
Seriously guys, what an improvement! Johnny Borrell is still less than dependable when it comes to displaying diverse emotions vocally, but he now sings with a new found fervour which really helps the album along. Secondly, and more importantly, Razorlight's song-writing has improved vastly and the end result is that each and every track is a possible single, which in turn causes me to declare that this second effort comes across as more of a greatest hits compilation than anything else.
Of course that has a flip-side in that the album doesn't flow together all that well, as it does feel at times as if a random bunch of tracks have been whopped together. But it scarcely matters when almost all of the tracks are of serious quality, and even if the album doesn't necessarily flow all that well, it has at least been better edited and sequenced than their debut had.
In the Morning kicks things off in style, with Andy Burrows' vibrant drumming giving Borrell's guitar work a much needed kick in the crack. The lyrics aren't anything special, but since when were lyrics Borrell's forte? What is immense though is the stripped bare instrumentation in the last third of the song which plays host to a simple but downright addictive guitar riff.
My favourite song from the entire album is the piano ditty Who Needs Love?, which manages to carry the burdens of a somewhat simplistic mash of piano chords and somehow turn it into a slice of pop genius. If you had called Razorlight spontaneous at the time of Up All Night I would have laughed right in your fat face, but when Johnny encourages Burrows to generate a drum roll at the 2 minute 40 second mark the implementation has a substantial effect on the overall quality of the song (although I am not entirely convinced that it wasn't planned in order to create the desired effect).
It is rather ironic that one of the worst songs on the album would be Razorlight's first UK number one, and yes folks, I'm talking about the all lighters aloft stadium pleaser, America. Johnny Borrell reverts back to being a pretentious prat and for its running time it seems to challenge and dash all the effort I had put into forgiving them their debut.
The other slow to mid-pace ballad is I Can't Stop This Feeling I've Got. But whereas America wouldn't even be fit to find its abode in a cesspit, I Can't Stop is a skilfully paced piece of work which really highlights the great chemistry within the band. The iridescent guitar and bass lines fade their way clearly into earshot and then Borrell treats us to some wonderfully paced lyrics, which seem to have been painstakingly tweaked to perfection. The start to each verse is probably too one-dimensional for its own good, but my God is it memorable and easy to quote, "I can't stop this feeling I've got, I know who I am and I know what I'm not..."
Pop Song 2006 is very run of the mill and an entirely throwaway moment. Yet it still stands head and shoulders above almost anything from their debut. The crap title of the song does little to allude to the alpha-male posturing from Borrell which lies within. I seem to have no patience for Borrell when he starts playing games, I simply demand the very best from him or else I am not interested. In my defence though, I am of the opinion that when he isn't writing songs at the top of his game, he is writing them at the bottom of his game - he does nothing in half-measures.
Penultimate track, Back to the Start, is indeed going back to the start as it features some of the more infectious riffs which are to be seen on Razorlight, akin to those which can be located on In the Morning. It's probably my favourite all out rocker on the album and it nicely paves the way for the emotional climax of Los Angeles Waltz.
And what a closer, seriously, the band exceed all of my expectations and truly have delivered on all fronts with Los Angeles Waltz. Even Borrell manages to conjure up some worthwhile lovelorn lyrics, "You can't say that you love me, but that's not what I've heard." Who would have believed it eh, Johnny Borrell actually writes something meaningful? Well, I would never have placed a bet on it!
Razorlight is the perfect second album. It not only manages to dispel four fifths of the negativity I had over the band, which had been incurred from their half-baked debut effort, but it also places a great deal of confidence in me that Razorlight can go on to better things. And with a running time of 35 minutes there are no unwanted extras here (well maybe a few), so keeping it tightly edited is the name of the game from now on boys! Well done and give yourselves a pat on the back!
Read more of my reviews at www.danielkempreviews.co.uk
Razorlights second album released back in 2006.
To be honest I was excited and really looking forward to buying this album all those many moons ago,but when I finally got my hands on a copy I was sorely disappointed to say the least.
The whole album just felt and sounded weak, and really commercial. In my opion they sold out with this album,they lost that individual and unique sound that made them just that bit different and enjoyable to listen to.
You could tell on this album that their egos had got the better of them,I felt the majority of the tracks that were on this album were poor,and the vocals especially sounded like Johny just couldnt be bothered to sing.
None of the 10 tracks on this album are anything to write home about,they all just sound like poor attempts to create memorable and catchy tracks.
To be honest I wouldnt really recommend buying this album,it only had 10 tracks on it and to be fair I think I liked just one which was - Hold on. The 10 tracks used on this album just didnt seem to stand out or grab my attention,they sounded passionless and at times lifeless.
The album definately lacked that edge,aura and quality that there debut - Up all night had.
Razorlight were the kind of band that didn't really move me deeply in any way. In fact the first time I saw them on TV live at Hyde Park as part of Live 8 concert, I thought they were trying too hard with little effect. Then along came the hit single America, which as pop songs go I thought was well constructed and hit all the right notes and punched its weight at the top of the charts. Although hardly original in theme or sentiment, it remains a catchy radio pop song. I'm not sure however, if in the future this is a song that is going to remind us of circa 2006 or some time earlier in the 20th century. It's a sentiment I have for the album as a whole.
Some regard Razorlight as "indie rock's finest grave robbers" an attribute especially attached to their debut 2004 debut Up All Night. There also seems to be a trend amongst those who glorified their first album to 'dis' this one. I've not heard 'Up All Night' so I can't comment too much on this, but the idea that they've sold out to the US market is a bit harsh. After all, many of these songs are heavily influenced by former British indie rockers. One Amazon reviewer describes the second album as "mindless, substance-less riff-rock", but couldn't that be a description of most rock music :-)? One thing I would say is that this is definitely a Radio 2 album and there's nothing wrong with that!
There are certainly a lot of influences on this album. In some ways it resembles a regurgitated concoction of classic pop and epic rock rhythms of the last three decades. The opening track about having a hangover, 'In the morning' (also released as a single) has Bowie overtones but very much resembles a Talking Heads number with its crisp percussion and recurring staccato guitar rhythm. 'Who Needs Love?' according to the NME 'cheekily borrows a bar-room piano from Bruce Springsteen'. This is followed by the Motown -inspired and dodgy stomping beat of 'Hold On' - something your auntie with the Bee-Hive might dance to at the Christmas party. The fifth track on the album 'Before I Fall to Pieces' is one of my favourites and carries on the same catchy beat and effective dislocated vocal as on 'America'. I also like 'I Can't Stop This Feeling I've Got' which is a bit like a Jam ballad with Elvis Costello on vocals. Pop song 2006 is one of my least favourite tracks on the album with a raw scratchy rock sound that for many has echoes of U2, but for me would never have been in contention as a filler track on the Joshua Tree (Not that I'm a big fan if U2). 'Kirby's House' is another of the weaker tracks with lyrics that go nowhere - it sounds like someone moaning about moving house. This track more than any other on this album exemplifies singer songwriter Jonny Borrel's lack of imagination as a creative song writer unless it was just boredom in trying to get the album finished. Next we have the blustery "Back to the Start" - is that a Sting impression I hear? Some white reggae influence maybe but I wouldn't go as far as Time Out and describe this as 'driving music for middle-aged men.' The unmemorable "Los Angeles Waltz" closes off the album with a whimper about the pressures of touring.
Although not all the songs hit the target, this is still a fun album with some catchy tunes. If anything holds the album together it's probably the percussion arrangements and skilful drumming of Andy Burrows along with some wonderful chord sequences and riff combinations by Swedish guitarist Bjorn Agren. I don't have a problem with rehashed indie rock riffs and pop melodies of a bygone age. After all, there's no such thing as an original pop song - everything is influenced by something else. It is however, reasonable to question whether Razorlight have brought anything new to the contemporary pop/rock scene. Perhaps lyrically the album doesn't resonate enough with the times. Jonny Borrel is certainly not the greatest songwriter of his generation and too much of his song writing is rather vacuous. 'America' is probably the only song that possesses lyrical weight. Despite these criticisms I would still say that this is a CD you can still enjoy listening to. Probably worth the £5 it now costs on Amazon.
Release: Jul 2006
Razorlight were formed as a band in 2002 by the singer-songwriter Johnny Borrell - a man who was reportedly a stand-in bassist for The Libertines for a short space of time during their early days before getting signed. Notoriously arrogant, Johnny Borrell is a man who is hated by many as in fact is this second album from the band. When released in July 2006, this self-titled second album was greeted with a mixed reception from the critics; even being nominated in the Worst Album category at the 2007 NME Awards as voted by the readers. Although their magazine writer clearly enjoyed it having rated the album an 8 out of 10, apparently this enthusiasm was not shared by the readers and to be honest that is entirely understandable.
Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the first album from the band, particularly the single 'Golden Touch' - I can't say that I share the same enthusiasm for their second album, and in fact at times found it to be entirely tiresome. Sure, there are a few tracks that do stand out and are enjoyable, but for the most part the album is unmemorable and in fact quite dreary and depressing. Even when the album is good, it's not quite great with the dreary factor ever present in each of the album's ten tracks. 'In The Morning' gives the album a promising opener, however next track 'Who Needs Love' is really rather dull. On the subject of 'In The Morning' however, this track encapsulates everything that I love about the band; it is lively, energetic, and exciting. A joy to listen to, 'In The Morning' could not have possibly provided the album with a better opener, however the fact that it is perhaps the album's finest moment is quite a depressing prospect.
Although 'Hold On' is a semi-satisfying track, it is not until we reach 'America' that we are again treated to a bit of class and excitement. I absolutely love this track and often find myself singing along as I listen to it. With a strong chorus and exactly the kind of drum beat that I love - 'America' contains the perfect formula for a decent track and certainly does not disappoint. 'Before I Fall to Pieces' is likewise a quality offering from the band, and is exactly the kind of music which Razorlight should be writing every time. Forget the fillers lads, concentrate on more tracks like this and perhaps next time the critics wont slam you quite so hard. A joy to listen to, 'Before I Fall to Pieces' is one you can listen to over and over without ever really tiring of. There is a feel good factor about the track which gives it an addictive quality, so one listen is never quite enough. If only the same could be said of the album as a whole.
'Pop Song 2006' is again undeniably a top quality track, another which will get you in the mood for singing and dancing. It is a confusing one that a band that can at times get their guitar riffs so perfect can at times get them so wrong. 'Pop Song 2006' hits all the right notes for me, and although it does seem to drag a bit towards the end I would still consider it to be one of the albums finer points. Other than this I think that I am pretty much empty handed for positive things to say about this album other than the strength which the band show in penultimate track 'Back To The Start'. It is not the wordiest of tracks, but I find it to be strangely enjoyable a song - one I find myself listening to an awful lot in fact.
Being a drummer I find that with some bands, their drumming draws me to them more so than any other aspect of the music can. Razorlight are a prime example of one of those bands, and I find their drumming style to be oddly hypnotic. It is not massively technical, but there is just something oddly drawing about it which ropes me in every time, even when the rest of the track falls flat on its face. I have always felt this way about the drumming style of Razorlight, and in fact on their first album there was a DVD included featuring live renditions of a number of the album's best tracks which I thoroughly enjoyed for watching the drummer do his thing live in action. So, even when the album seemingly only consists of fillers (around 50% of the time I would say) there is still some enjoyment to be gained from the listening experience.
The self-titled second album from Razorlight is a hard one to sum up. It's an album of two halves it would seem; one half filler, one half killer. It's not that simple however as the divide is not clear cut and in order to get to the stronger tracks you will have to trudge through the inferior tracks in the process. Whilst I would recommend this album in part in that there are some decent tracks on display here and the drumming is of an excellent standard, I would also discourage listening to this album at the same time as it is half bad after all. Whilst Razorlight's début album was fresh and exciting, their second shows signs of the band going stale and this is really rather sad to see. 'Razorlight' as an album had great potential, however it would seem that it has failed to show the best in the band and is therefore somewhat of a disappointment.
Label: Mercury Music
Release Date: 17th July 2006
Originally posted by me on my website Alt-UK.com
I received this Album from my son as a birthday present and therefore have no idea what it purchase price was, but on first listening it seems to have been money well spent. When their single America was in the charts I'd be heard singing it all the time, so I guess my son latched on to this hence the rather nice birthday gift.
I know very little about Razorlight apart from the fact that I am found of their music, or at least one of their singles. The Album cover is really quite plain and simple but effective none the less, being that is basically just a black and white picture of the four members of the band, with the name Razorlight above the picture.
The track listening for the album is as follows:
1. In the Morning
2. Who needs love
3. Hold on
5. Before I fall to pieces
6. I can't stop this feeling I've got
7. Pop song 2006
8. Kirby's house
9. Back to the start
10. Los Angeles Waltz
On loading the disc into my computer CD drive I was taken to a menu whereby I was invited to download some extra bonus tracks, but as of yet have not got round to the registering and such that is required to do so, but have placed it in my Favourites for future investigation.
Each track on the album has it's individual merits with perhaps the first track In the Morning being the weakest of the 10. They are all actually quite varied compared to some albums which tend to stick in the vein of the hit track on it. America is obviously a track which sticks out for me since it's the one I was singing for weeks, it's a very catchy number and many of you will already be familiar with it's chorus and lyrics. I found myself strangely drawn to track 8 Kirby's House which kind of sucked me in at the start and kept me hooked until the final bars.
A good few of the tracks remind me ever so slightly of the seventies and seem to me to have a hint of glam rock in there somewhere. I was not particularly found of Pop Song 2006 which was in my humble opinion a bit boring. I was however quite impressed in general with the album and have placed most of the tracks on my MP3 player.
I like to try and keep up with music, but have no interest in the actual internal workings and members, if I like the music I like the music and it doesn't really matter who has made it. I like this album and shall be listening to it a lot over the next few days weeks, I have perhaps had a bit too much of America it has been played quite a bit on the radio. I have heard a lot of stuff out there that isn't really my scene, but this is a decent album and it is maybe the fact that it has me reminiscing back to the good old seventies that has endeared me to it.
More mainstream and radio friendly? Yes, but not in a bad way. Admittedly, the songs here are less spiky and urgent than those on Up All Night, but what they lose in vigour, they more than make up for with the sheer quality of the tunes on show here.
Each song on the album is of high quality and I would recommend it to anyone. I know that some people have complained about the relatively short length of this album, however, sometimes exactly what you want is a short, sharp dose of perfectly formed, singalong, pop songs, which is exactly what this is. You'll have heard the singles by now - if you like them, then, put simply, you will like the rest of the album.
It is a very good album that I would recommend to those of you unfortunate enough not to have it. I will be honest, I didn't really like their first album but this is a different kettle of fish.
When Razorlight first emerged in 2004 with the album Up All Night, my initial reaction was that they were basically The Libertines but with a more pop twist. While their debut has proven to be one of those albums that I enjoyed in the immediate aftermath of buying, but grown to like less and less as days have gone by, I was still somewhat looking forward to the bands sophomore effort. While they really had no technical advantage over any of the countless Indie-Rock bands flooding the British music scene at the moment, some of Johnny Borrells songwriting, most notably on tracks like Golden Touch, Dont Go Back To Dalston and Somewhere Else, was undeniably a cut above the majority of Pete Doherty wannabes clogging up the pages of the music press. Borrell also earned points for having the balls to actually tell the truth in the press and call the Arctic Monkeys crap, one of the few cases where his astronomical ego actually led to him bringing up a good point.
So 2006 rolls around and around the midway point Razorlight start to make noises again. Borrell, along with fellow guitarist Bjorn Agnen, bassist Carl Dalemo and drummer Andy Burrows were no strangers to anyone who read the NME, Q or any other music mag in 2006, making bold declarations of how their second album was going to be astounding, and to quote Borrell a real London Calling also stating they were confident it was going to break them in America. Then came the release of first single In The Morning, ushered in by a drumbeat from Burrows before the guitar and bass come in, not too long followed by Borrells vocals, cockily crooning his trademark trite-but-trying-to-sound-deep lyrics. I cant say I was particularly impressed to be honest. While not a bad song at all, and an enjoyable one when it showed up on the radio, In The Morning sounded like the majority of Up All Night - generic Indie-Rock, somewhat catchy, but nothing to get excited about. I as good as shelved hopes for the sophomore album until it released at an irregularly low price upon release.
When I did pick it up, it soon became clear that pretty much everything I ever thought about Razorlight was true. First of all, they genuinely are the Libertines-lite, and if Borrell isnt trying to create parallels with his former bandmates, its a hilarious coincidence. A self-titled second album, where the first song is also the first single, with a more pop-orientated sound designed to cater to the average radio listener as well as indie kids. Sadly Borrells comment about it being a real London Calling came true in the worst possible fashion. For those unaware, The Clash were often chastised for trying to sound too American to try and flog more records Stateside, and Razorlight takes that idea and waters it down even further. These songs have no soul, no character. They could have been written by anyone, anywhere, there is no flavour to them. Its as if this album was made to try and appeal to everyone by staying as clear from boldness as possible, but in doing so has sacrificed any real chance at being interesting.
Ill say right now that, in theory, there is nothing wrong with Razorlight. There are no outstandingly bad songs, nothing I have to turn off in disgust. However, unlike its predecessor, there are no songs that really stand up and scream listen to me either. If youll pardon the pun, Borrells golden touch has deserted him.
The closest thing to a highlight is only so because its so outrageously cheesy, the piano driven pop anti-ballad of sorts Who Needs Love. Im tired of love/yeah/sick of love/yeah/Ive taken more than enough rings its chorus, and if you tried to actually listen to it as a sincere song it would probably hurt. Its not the subject thats the problem, its the overly melodramatic fashion in which Borrell sings it that makes it stand out. There are little bits here and there, where he eggs on Burrows, that make me wonder if its all purposeful though, which makes enjoying it a little more acceptable.
That aside, the only other songs I could recite lines or remember the tune of more than half an hour after hearing them are Brit nominated single America (God, could he make it any more obvious who he wants to sell records to?) and Back To The Start, both of whom rely on oh-oh-ohs to work up any sense of memorable status. The former is another case of Borrell being hilarious overdramatic with his vocals, and Im really not sure what hes talking about when he sings all my life/been watching America/all my life/panic in America and to be honest I dont care because its probably not all that interesting anyway. The latter rings to life with a guitar riff before Borrell really starts wailing his oh-oh-oh-o-oh-o-ohs until the verse proper kicks in. To be fair to it its probably also the most driven and heavy rocker on the album, granted that still doesnt say much.
Those are the highlights as well. The bits I actually kind of enjoy. The rest of the album consists of the most purely generic Indie-Rock, watered down to the point where it almost fails to be classifiable as Rock. You know, jaggy guitars, unspectacular bass and drums, trite-but-try-to-sound-deep lyrics textbook stuff. Its like a vaguely less in-your-face irritating version of The Feeling. The song titles barely even warrant mention because they are almost interchangeable. Wait, I remember If I Fall To Pieces, well the title anyway, cause it was a single, and Pop Song 2006 is, I believe, possibly meant to be a biting cynicism at the state of music or something. Generic Indie Song 2006 would have fit better, although that may confuse listeners seeing as the majority of this album could get filed under that category. Borrell is also guilty of copying his old buddy/rival Doherty when it comes to shamelessly namedropping in some sad attempt at sounding cool or real. No amount of namedropping Liberace or the Kings of Leon is going to impress me, especially in songs as droning as Los Angeles Waltz (there he goes again!).
Its not as though the band have any talent deficiencies, Borrell, while prone to going over the top with his vocals, can sing, and both he and Agnen are good enough guitarists, its just that they never test themselves. This is one of the most safe albums Ive ever heard. They dont try anything new, just take the type of music they know they can do, dilute it and regurgitate it. I mean its inoffensive as background music, but while Up All Night was also guilty of this in a lot of places, it at least peppered some genuinely good tunes around to keep your attention. Hell the B-Sides to that albums singles had more fire than this!
Razorlight may not be the worst album Ive ever heard, and Borrell is right, in that its much better than the Arctic Monkeys, but then the fact that even at his worst, he doesnt have a voice as insultingly irritating as Alex Turner ensures that, but that doesnt make it good, or even close to being a worthy follow up to a flawed but still enjoyable in moderation debut album. Who knows, the album seems to have really put the band on the map in terms of the mainstream, and possibly even gave them the inroads to the American market they were dreaming of, but that doesnt make it good in my book.
With The Libertines a distant memory, Razorlight really had an opportunity to steal the title of Indie Darlings, instead they opted to go the pop-route, and while it will give them more sales in the short run, this isnt an album I can see people seeking out 10 years from now. Why didnt they put between-albums-single Somewhere Else on it to give it one bona-fide great song I dont really know, possibly because it would show up the rest of the album for the generic, excitement free fluff it is even worse than it manages to do on its own. Die-hard Razorlight fan may be able to get into this a bit more than me, because as I say, the songs arent in-your-face awful, they just arent interesting, but if you really do love Borrells voice then you might find them more palatable. Me? I was bored to tears.
Review also posted on Epinions.com
This is the second album from Razorlight, the controversial four piece who are sometimes deemed as the saviours of rock and roll and sometimes cited as arrogant idiots. Personally, I am a massive Razorlight fan, have seem the live a few times and had 'Up All Night' (their first album) on repeat in my car for months. In fact I loved 'Up All Night' so much, that this record, with all its promises of being "the best british album since 'Definitly Maybe'" and the like, has left me slightly cold.
It IS a good record, don't get me wrong, but its not a great record and I was expecting something fantastic.
It is a slower pace, and more melodious than Up All Night, but more often than not this makes the music sound a bit insipid. 'Who Needs Love?' and 'Can't Stop this Feeling I've Got' never really get going, and to me, Los Angeles Waltz sounds a bit like an after thought.
There are some high points. Everyone is saying that 'America' is a stand out track, and it really is great. Harmonious, but witha bit more bite and backbone than the other tracks. 'Fall to pieces' too, has that classic Razorlight alteration of pace going on. It's gritty and gets under your skin.
Biggest disappointment however is Kirby's House. if you own the recent 'Help: A Day in The Life' compilation, you'll know this as a fantastic, gospel choir led song, which rises, falls, suprises you and makes you want to sing at the top of your voice. It is, for me, the best track on the album.
This version though, on 'Razorlight', is pretty terrible. It has been slowed up for no reason, the gospel choir are gone, and so is the singalong element that made it such a great tune. It feels stripped of all feeling.
I would still recommend this album, especially to fans of the band and people who enjoy the more Snow Patrol led section of the Indie market, but it does not deserve the hype at all. I don't think Razorlight have bettered Up All Night and for that reason I have to say I'm a little disappointed.
Razorlight were formed in 2002 and are a four piece Anglo-Swedish indie guitar band.
Johnny Borrell - Vocals/ Guitar
Bjorn Agren - Guitar
Carl Dalemo - Bass
Andy Burrows - Drums
Johnny Borrell as well being the vocalist is the heartbeat of the band. He courts controversy at every opportunity. He is either incredibly self confident or the master of self promotion. Many of his comments in the past have offended and divided the music world. These include "Were better than the Arctic Monkeys" and "If Dylan's making the chips then I'm sipping the champagne" when comparing his and Bob Dylan's first albums.
Whatever you think of Borrell's apparent arrogance and disrepect, it would be folly to disregard Razorlights music on this basis. It is clear for all to see Borrell is a very talented frontman. And although Razorlight polarize opinion (they were even accused of being described as what was wrong with music today) and have been accused of being too simple, easy going and lacking in ambition, 'Up All Night' the bands debut album is widely consided even by the detractors to be one of the pre-eminent albums of 2004. This album was re-issued in 2005 with the inclusion of the hit single 'Somewhere Else' which reached number 2 in the charts and this remains their biggest hit to date. Some of their other well known songs include 'Vice' 'Rip It Up' and 'Golden Touch'.
2005 saw them play 'Live 8' and saw them court even more controversy when they refused to donate any revenue to charity putting it down to their "fledgling status". They also supported 'Queen' 'Oasis' and 'Richard Ashcroft' in some huge sell out gigs.
2006 was always going to be a huge moment in the bands career with the release of the self titled second album. Would they counter the unadventurous tag and the claims they only copy the likes of 'The Strokes' and 'British Sea Power' or would they stick to their trusted and successful method ?
So the highly waited, eponymous second album was released on 17th July. I bought it the on the day of release with much anticipation.
The album contains 10 tracks ;
First up is 'In The Morning' the first single released off the album which reached a high of 3 with the help of downloads. The first thing that hits you with the single is it is a continuation of the first album sound. Not that thats a complaint, just a confirmation that Razorlight were going down the well trodden familiarity path rather than the experimentation one. It's a catchy number, full of familiar guitar riffs and one of the best tracks on offer. Easy to see why it was released first because of the radio friendly aura about it.
My favourite track is track 4 'America' which will be the single to be released next. I liked it the very first time I heard it which it not always the case with me. It has tender vocals and melodic verses interspersed with guitar crunching choruses. The song is about how the news and world in general is obsessed with whats going on in America. Politics hasn't emerged in their lyrics before. It's definately up there with their best material to date and definately the highlight of this album.
I really like track 6 too (I Can't Stop This Feeling I've Got) which hasn't been mentioned much in other reviews I've read. The lyrics are excellent and hit home and the vocals compliment them nicely. This song is beautifully delivered.
Track 7 'Pop Song 2006' was streamed on the bands website earlier this year so obviously they had high hopes for it although I havn't heard if it is possibly a future single release. It is said to be a tribute to 'R.E.M' s 'Pop Song 89'.
'Kirbys House' is a weaker track which is very repetitive and with nonsensical lyrics.
Like the start, the album finishes on a high with the excellent 'Los Angeles Waltz' which is another example why Razorlight have been so successful. They churn out simple, easy to the ear, catchy melodies.
1 excellent track
5 good tracks
'N.M.E' drooled over the album as did most of the national newspapers and 'Q' went as far as to say "the best guitar album since Definately Maybe'. It has certainly been a commercial success going straight in at number 1 and staying near the top ever since. And whatever critics say, album sales dictate record deals and in this respect Razorlight will be here for some time to come.
However I don't think it's as good as 'Up All Night' and for that reason I'm slightly disappointed. It has quality and some cracking tunes but it didn't hit me as being a classic over time. The Razorlight sound from 'Up All Night' runs parallel and you can hardly tell one album from the other. I feel this album is lyrically superior but fails at times to be as edgy. I still think they have time on their side though as there should be at least another 2 albums to come. The commercial success of the album has guaranteed Razorlight's future and proven a few doubters wrong and for that reason the album is career defining. The future release 'America' I predict will be another success and is arguably their best track to date but the album lacks the killer tracks which guarantee notoriety and relies on the steady as a rock, tried and tested Razorlight formula. I guess the band and its management have decided that the band can survive being safe as long as the songs they write match earlier efforts. Whilst this continues Razorlight will continue to be one of the most radio played and popular indie guitar out there on offer. Unfortunately, although I like the album and play it quite often, I can see the day when it will remain in my CD rack for months on end and for that reason you can see why Johnny Borrell gets critisizm for his self promotion and end product. But who knows, the album we all hope they are capable of, will be in the pipeline. This album in my view isn't what we all hoped for although it will be one of the best indie albums of the year.
Album rating 8/10.
When a band comes from nowhere and scores an instant hit album the danger is itll be the only time they will ever be heard of. A couple of years ago Razorlight appeared and instantly became one of the nations favourite bands. While they were a love them or hate them band they did seem to hit the big time almost overnight. Lead singer Johnny Borrell had formed the band after leaving The Libertines, before they hit it big, and seemed determined to leave his own mark on the industry. The real test for Borrell and the Razorlight boys was whether they could do it all again, and whether they could beat the infamous second album syndrome.
This second album comes almost 2 years after the debut effort and sees a different side to the Razorlight of 2004. Over their 2 year ride at the top they have certainly matured and that is hugely in evidence throughout this album. The music seems to have a lot more feeling to it this time round and the album as a whole appears to have a more complete sound. The self titled album seems to suggest a new direction for the band and an attempt to capture the imagination of those fans that are a little unsure as to whether Razorlight are for them.
The album recorded over the early part of this year in a London studio was being hyped up for months before its release. There can at times be a slight over reaction from the British music press to certain albums and artists and this seemed to be one of those cases. The first album was a very good debut and a lot of fans thought it almost impossible to better. They enlisted the help of Chris Thomas to aid with the albums production and with a CV that includes U2, Pulp and Elton John there seemed to be some early suggestions of a more diverse sound. And thats exactly what the album delivers.
If there was a slight let down on the first album it was the bands musical side of things. A couple of tracks seemed to be a little weaker than the rest of the album and it was mainly down to the musical element. This time the music seems to be the strongest element of the album. From the opening bars of In The Morning it is obvious that Razorlight are intent on making an album better than the previous multi million seller. It sounds much more complete musically with the guitars combining nicely on all the tracks to keep a nice up-tempo feel to the album.
While the guitars sound great the whole effect is complimented superbly by the drums. The whole album musically seems to gel a lot easier that the debut and that is certainly a sign of what the band have learnt over the last couple of years. I would also say that Borrells vocals have changed slightly over the last couple of years and he seems to have a lot more passion and feeling in both his vocals and his lyrics. With that in mind it seems to give the album more of an edge than the debut and is perhaps the reason Im actually finding that I prefer this album.
The whole album seems to have a more complete feel to it that up All Night. While there are a couple of tracks that took a little while to grow on me I would say that I couldnt pick a band song on it now. With only 10 tracks on it they have obviously decided that rather than pad it out they will make it the best they can. It draws a lot of influence from 60s and 70s rock tracks and even shows glimpses of Elton John, Pulp and U2, which obviously has something to do with the producers influence.
There are a couple of tracks that really stand out for me. Obviously the single In The Morning over a short space of time convinced me to buy the album but it was really America that sold it to me. It builds up quite slowly, with a gentle guitar riff until Johnnys vocals come in. Its one of the mellower tracks on the album and I think it really emphasises the reason this album is so good. The lyrical content of every track has a different dimension to it.
Overall I would have no hesitation in recommending this album to anyone. Its a more complete, rounded performance from the band. It does sound more polished than Up All Night but that isnt necessarily a bad thing. If you are expecting more of the same from Razorlight you might be disappointed as they have tried to create something quite new and fresh. It still draws on the successful elements of Up All Night but creates a new sound all of its own. The next problem facing the band though is where do they go for the third album to try and better this one?
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Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 In The Morning
2 Who Needs Love?
3 Hold On
5 Fall To Pieces
6 Can't Stop This Feeling I've Got
7 Pop Song 2006
8 Kirby's House
9 Back To The Start
10 Los Angeles Waltz