If I were Razorlight I’d get thoroughly hacked off with being compared to The Libertines all the time. Yes, frontman Johnny Borrell went to school with Libertines bassist John Hassall and sometimes played with the band on the gig circuit, but he never joined them fully as he wanted to do “his own thing”.
Unfortunately for Razorlight, they do sound similar to The Libertines – infectious British garage-rock with punky riffs and riotous singing. However, despite the unwelcome comparisons, the Scando-Brit quartet have suddenly become the rockers du jour and their hotly anticipated debut album has been hyped to the max.
Believe the hype. Beneath all the tousle-haired, skinny-hipped posturing is a stellar band who are set for global domination á la The Darkness.
Incendiary track Leave Me Alone starts off with a sweet piano tinkle but the song soon turns gritty with an arrogant high one-note guitar riff and the masterful lyric: “When did you decide to live like a suicide.” It is a cracking opening to a debut album that spits out superb tracks for the next 45 minutes with not one item of “filler” among them.
Johnny’s phlegmy vocals are free to swagger pretty much anywhere throughout, sometimes talking, singing, frequently screeching. His voice effortlessly drips attitude on an album that segues into various musical styles within the garage rock genre.
Single Rock ‘N’ Roll Lies has the air of The Strokes‘ adrenalin-pumped underground world coupled with beat poet lyrics such as: “There’s something about the way she walks, she suits the city streets so well,” while title track Up All Night is a long rambling tome and Vice is a raucous rabble-rousing tune.
Which Way Is Out starts with Johnny’s Bob Dylan-esque chatter with tight short guitar chords building up to the rapidly sung chorus: “Rack ’em up, knock ’em back, line ’em up, put ’em down.”
Spiky single Rip It Up is a blatant rip-off of Television but Dalston exemplifies the personal touches to the album with cryptic lines such as, “Don’t go back to Dalston, don’t go up the junction, don’t go round the houses,” as though we’re privy to a young man’s secret thoughts.
Then follows current catchy single Golden Touch that gives Razorlight the credibility of finding their own, breezier, sound. Another single, Stumble And Fall, follows close behind featuring tumbling drums and sharp melodies, before the frenzied, chorus-hollering stomp of Get It And Go.
There are more strikingly observational lyrics in the Patti Smith-inspired In The City: “She’s been reading Bukowski for days, leans over ‘n’ spits the name in my face.” Starting off with just a light single strum for the first one-and-a-half minutes, it breaks into a dirty Velvet Underground-style tune and finishes with a spirited drum solo.
The epic To the Sea is played in a quick marching tempo and comes to a head at the end with all manner of instruments thrashing and clashing while Johnny’s searing vocal rasps continuously. The 13th and final track Fall, Fall, Fall is a haunting come-down of a song with lonely guitar and Johnny’s vulnerable voice singing: “Midnight is calling, are you close behind.”
And thus ends a louche album that may not serve up anything revolutionary, but is one of the best debut albums I’ve heard in a long time. Being hailed as one of the most exciting bands of the year is a huge reputation to live up to, but Razorlight have the confidence, and the talent, to carry it off.