It’s Borrell’s bid for Bono-stature. Except it’s actually good
Everyone loves a party. Perhaps your idea of a night on the tiles is to pack your cheeks with pills like a narcotics hamster and gurn your way into oblivion. Or, possibly, your perfect bash is just to kick back and discuss the finer points of Chilean interpretive cinema with a bottle of carbonated water – flavoured of course, it is a party, after all. Or maybe your ideal might lie somewhere between the two, with friends, fun and staying up into the wee small hours for the sole reason that you don’t want the moment to end.
But no matter how we party, we all have to face The Morning After: the vacant memories and fuzzy flashbacks, the regrets, the hopes and the coy advances.
Diving into a darkened world of seedy districts, torn-up dancefloors and chance encounters, Razorlight’s debut ‘Up All Night’ was a head-spinning tour of London’s nightlife, where the next party was always just around the corner. Now, though, the alarm clock is ringing and it’s time to face the consequences.
Ignoring the overflowing ashtrays and empty beer cans, comeback single ‘In The Morning’ wakes up the house as its twitching country-tonk demonstrates a total disregard for hangovers. “Last night was so much fun”, snaps Johnny, before he quickly wipes the slate clean and declares: “In the morning you know you won’t remember a thing”. However, there’s already something in his voice signalling that the singer knows it’s never that simple.
With Andy Burrows’ drums pounding through the album like voodoo maracas, the opener sets the tone for Razorlight to sound like the classic rock’n’roll band they always imagined in their heads: bigger, bolder, brighter. ‘Who Needs Love?’ cheekily borrows a bar-room piano from Bruce Springsteen, as Johnny tells us he’s down with romance, but he’s not kidding anyone – least of all himself. With a poetic simplicity he ruefully dismisses the virtues of having “the perfect girl or boy” one by one, but his list is so spot-on it could only have been penned by a true romantic.
‘America’ sees Razorlight both expanding their geography and swapping rock bravado for something deeper, as the song lights up like a vivid LA sunset. ‘Razorlight’ isn’t a concept album, but as with its predecessor’s nocturnal adventures, it proves too tempting not to draw your own narratives between the songs. So while ‘America’ is principally concerned with the US’ cultural influence, there’s a feeling Friends re-runs aren’t its chief concern.
Something, or rather someone, escaped ‘In The Morning’’s memory eraser and is digging away inside. Fortunately, like a giddy friend, ‘I Can’t Stop This Feeling I’ve Got’ just blurts it all out (“I can’t stop this feeling I’ve got/I know where I’ve been and I know what I’ve lost”). Bewitchingly awakened by Carl Dalemo’s perfectly understated bass, it’s the track that delicately but defiantly tips its hat to early Elvis Costello, and it’s one that encapsulates Razorlight’s guiding spirit: you can plan your parties and pick the guestlist, but you can’t control your heart.
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So for every ‘Pop Song 2006’, with Bjorn Agren’s euphoric but scratchy guitars soaring into a U2-esque air-punching high, there’s a ‘Los Angeles Waltz’ that grows out of church-like organs, and evolves into soul-crushing rock’n’roll to rival The Animals’ take on ‘House Of The Rising Sun’, seemingly inspired by the end of Razorlight’s January 2005 US tour, when Johnny arrived in the city, isolated, unable to sing or talk. With his bandmates bursting towards the climax, Razorlight’s frontman lays everything he’s got on the line. There is no holding back, no mediation – just true, tender emotions.
Even a million miles away from Dalston, there’s someone – not just the name-checked Kings Of Leon – he just can’t shake and as the final, haunting lines “we own each other” are howled out against a lonely backdrop, the tinge of hope that underpins the album becomes acutely heartbreaking.
It’s difficult to imagine anything rawer captured on record and, as the album’s closer, it proves devastating. So, Razorlight’s morning-after record is neither a tawdry comedown nor a party substitute. It’s bigger than that. It’s a soulful, romantic album about what happens when the lights come up at the end of the night and life smacks you in the face. It’s a record that’s understands, and is there for you through all the highs and the lows. It’s also a record that sees Razorlight comfortably leap the “difficult second album” trap. Now that calls for a party.