PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Razorlight: Razorlight

Michael Lomas

For a record that displays such naked commercial ambitions, Razorlight is a startlingly unimaginative, bloated and anonymous listen.


Razorlight

Razorlight

Label: Vertigo
US Release Date: 2006-08-22
UK Release Date: 2006-07-17
Amazon
iTunes

A little over two years ago, Johnny Borrell and a bunch of hired sidekicks called Razorlight emerged from the post-Libertines blast of gutter punk and breathless melody, and got pretty huge. Borrell’s was a watered down, sanitised version of Pete and Carl's world of battered romance and chaotic garage rock, and it unquestionably sounded fantastic. Owing its debt more to late '70s new-wave punk like Television and Talking Heads (and shot through with the unnerving self confidence of Liam Gallagher at his most gobby) Up All Night was like the soundtrack to a thousand stylishly wasted nights on the town. The thing though, was that after a few plays, Up All Night was a bit like that trilby-wearing scenester kid grooving on the indie-club dancefloor -- ever so hip and clever, but strangely lacking in any real substance or heart. The recycled riffs, though rousing at first, soon sounded tired and samey, whilst Borrell's lyrics read like a cartoon procession of snatched 6th form poetry -- all Patti Smith shapes and half-deep, intense proclamations. It wasn't that Up All Night was a particularly terrible record, just that there was something about the whole thing that sounded contrived, perfectly planned out, and impossible to love. Borrell clearly had a rock and roll master-plan in his back pocket, and while you have to admire the naked ambition of a man who inferred that he was a better songwriter than Bob Dylan in virtually his first NME interview, his shameless push towards stadium-sized rock glory came with an unappealing reek of desperation.

And so it is that the band's self-titled second album sounds exactly as you expect it to. With the bombast and sense of purpose turned up to 11, Razorlight is the sort of record that wears its heart on its sleeve and paints in the universal, broad brush-strokes which are designed for mass appeal and blanket airplay. Indeed, Borrell's lyrics are awash with hackneyed, everyman statements, clearly designed to be unspecific enough to relate to anyone and everyone from the 16-year old indie rock and roller to the Ford Mondeo driving businessman. The spiky, punk-pop of Up All Night is nowhere to be found, as Borrell has settled on a new set of reference points for his band to aspire to. Unfortunately this mostly seems to involve ripping off classic drivetime FM rock. Indeed everything from U2 at its most earnest and yearning, to the jangly stadium-pop of REM, is shamelessly plundered as Borrell goes off in search of something big, huge and chartbusting.

It should be pointed out that Borrell does kind of know his way around a tune, and really, some of the songs here aren't that bad. In fact, in a dumb, guilty sort of way, some of these songs might even sound great, were they touched with a bit of humour or a sense of fun. Instead, bogged down by Borrell's unrelenting earnestness and misguided conviction, they are almost all dragged towards the awful. "In The Morning", the album's lead single and the song that most recalls the band's energetic debut, has a sub-Talking Heads cod-reggae swagger about it. Borrell bemoans how, "The songs on the radio sound the same", blissfully unaware of the irony in his words and how ridiculous he sounds singing them. Things get worse with the dreaded foray into soft rock hell that is "America". It's the sort of song that will no doubt get described as a "spine-tingling ballad", and evoke comparisons to the widescreen emotions of Joshua Tree--era U2, when in truth it sounds more like '80s power ballad chumps Foreigner or Boston. Over chiming guitars, emotional “ooh oohs” and the sound of a thousand lighters flickering in the breeze, Borrell squeezes every last cliché from the already bloated soft rock format -- his sights clearly aimed at transatlantic domination. Elsewhere, “Who Needs Love”, with its barroom piano, wants to be Bruce Springsteen, but instead comes across more like Billy Joel, only cheesier. By the time Borrell's pained falsetto kicks in, it should be soulful but it just sounds laughable. Even "Kirby's House" (which appeared on last years Warchild compilation) sounding almost brilliantly like an early '70s Rolling Stones track, has been re-recorded, slowed down and drained of life here.

In many ways, there is not a lot wrong with Razorlight. The tunes are catchy, the lyrics could sort of be profound if you don't listen too closely, and at 35 minutes, it can hardly be described as overlong. But while everything might well be in its right place, Razorlight is a bloodless, careerist record that has nothing to say that you haven't heard a million times before. For a record that displays such bare commercial ambitions, it is a startlingly unimaginative and anonymous listen. Shorn of the tiny bit of bristling excitement that could be heard on the band's first album, Borrell is revealed, not as the songwriting god he thinks he is, but as a moderately talented purveyor of bloated, trite emotions and bland "big music".

3

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.