There was more to country music legend Hank Williams than boozing and a difficult marriage, y’know
Epsom Racecourse, Surrey Thursday, July 19
When we say ‘Razorlight’, of course, we mean the raggle-taggle band of cartoon crazies Johnny Borrell has gathered. The bassist, Freddie Stitz, looks like a cross between D’Artagnan and a Pirate Of The Caribbean. The guitarist, Gus Robertson, like a top-hatted, velvet-jacketed perv-rocker you’d never let show your child around his ‘chocolate factory’. Add in a keyboardist done up like Cecil B DeMille in 1926 and you have a fancy-dress freakshow designed, you can only presume, to muffle Borrell’s clichéd rock star indulgences of the past and make him seem a modest, down-to-earth figure in contrast.
It works – as, amazingly, does the line-up shift. Borrell piles into ‘In The Morning’ a new man, the tune strutting and shimmying with fresh vigour in the hands of a band as tight as they seem incongruous. Yes, the sprightly ‘Rip It Up’ seems to slip out of their grasp and run away from them, but their fag-chuffing rawk poise gives the barnyard jig of ‘Before I Fall To Pieces’ a stadium rock brush-up, as it does to an ecstatic ‘Vice’. They’re even playful enough to throw in a few of the covers they’ve been playing at recent club gigs: a sax-blasted Bowie-style take on The Byrds’ ‘Eight Miles High’ lets them indulge their session muso-prog fripperies, and they rev Edwyn Collins’ ‘A Girl Like You’ until it spews fervid oil smoke.
The now 32-year-old Johnny is assured and revitalised, oozing his panicked poet soul over ‘In The City’ and ‘Wire To Wire’, and dropping out of ‘Golden Touch’ for a huge singalong chorus. Aside from the two-minute garage-punk roar ‘Good Night’, his new songs are a smart side-step around the ’80s revival – ‘Dead Boy’ imagines a zombie Talking Heads hammering rocks on a chain gang, ‘Reveal Yourself’ has all the funk-pop density of Peter Gabriel or The Police, and ‘Vertical Women’ is a partner-swinging Springsteen rocker that casts Borrell, against type, as a bedroom blow-out: “I see vertical women/But I can’t get it right”. As ‘Somewhere Else’, ‘Stumble & Fall’ and a final ‘America’ romp home, it seems Razorlight aren’t the three-legged nag some would have us believe, but rather a strangely attired thoroughbred.
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