Since I went on about it in my introduction, I think I'll make my first proper post be a track-by-track review of Johnny Foreigner's debut LP. I'm not just a JF fan, honest, but I've largely been preoccupied with them since I, er, got hold of the album a few days ago.
Any song, basically, can be made awesome with handclaps. That's a lie, obviously, but if a song's good anyway then it can help it get better. This isn't the best song on the album, but it's a hard choice and it's a great opener; it's fast, fun and pretty catchy. I like the lyrics a lot, from what I can hear, and I love the repeated lines "GET OFF BEFORE THE SHIP GOES DOWN / GET OFF BEFORE THE SHIP SINKS". If the band playing on the titanic had sounded like this and I'd been all standing around like a more awkward and teenage version of Kate Winslet that didn't look like her in any way then there's no way I'd have got off before the ship went down.
OUR BIPOLAR FRIENDS
This was a single a while ago, but somehow I managed to miss it largely. It was a good choice for a single, though; it starts off slow, mentions ninja, girl vocals (always nice to hear) and then it changes and the drums properly kick in and it turns into another awesome stomp, where Alexei just wants "someone to DIE for". Huh. I kind of know the feeling, Alexei, but let's finish listening to the album for now. Towards the end it changes again and gets even faster and the girl/boy vocals are some of my favourite things ever and the drums just get more awesome. And then it ends after 3 minutes and 19 seconds because Johnny Foreigner do not outstay their welcome.
EYES WIDE TERRIFIED
(Ah, there's that title again, I hear you cry!)
I didn't choose this as a title because I liked the song more than the rest on the album, just because I thought it was an amazing title. I love internal rhyme. Sorry, in my other life I attempt to write poetry. Johnny Foreigner are not a lyrics band, in that they don't sing every line so that you can make it out and transcribe it on pretty much one listen (hi, The Wave Pictures!) but the lyrics that you can make out are pretty incredible throughout. Here they're telling me that my life is a song (a pretty boring one, if it is) but not this one. I think that's kind of obvious, to be honest, but let's not quibble with them this early on. It's a good slogan though, ready to be written on pencil cases across the country. They nail the slow/fast thing pretty well here, anyway. And oh, the title. The title.
CRANES AND CRANES AND CRANE
This song starts with a couple of seconds of a cappella "ba ba ba", and I'm wondering what a totally a cappella song by this lot would sound like? They have a lot of vocals, and they don't bury them in the mix like some other bands I'm currently championing (hi, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart) but there's a lot of drumming and guitars and general furious... well, not jangle, but rattle. I don't think a totally a cappella song would work, but it's a nice intro. This isn't one of the album's more memorable songs.
THE END AND EVERYTHING AFTER
This is one of the songs that made me like Johnny Foreigner in the first place. Sometimes re-recorded versions of songs for albums really annoy me, I'm afraid I have been known to condemn a song for not being as good as the demo version... but not here. I can't even remember what the demo sounded like after hearing this, which shows how great it is. The bits where the instruments drop out are brilliant, it's catchy again, and it's furious and the guitar is pretty incredible. And I tend not to ever talk about guitar parts, I'm all about the drumming and the vocals. But even I can tell that the guitar here rules.
The lyrics that I can make out from this one are pretty great, although I think it might be a song about music. I quite like songs about music though. It's like meta-fiction, when it's done right then it's awesome. Again, not one of the most memorable songs for me so far, but maybe it'll grow on me.
SALT, PEPPER AND SPINDERELLA
This is another title with an internal rhyme! Incredible! The problem with doing a track-by-track is that I'm obviously not in the band and there's only so many ways I can say "oh there was a slow bit that I liked and then it got fast and was awesome!" but I'll try. I LOVE the opening of this song, it's a bit slower and has a great drum beat and fun lyrics such as "stop shaking your hips at me" and it's quite driving and great and then after she keeps asking "are you hungry now?" and I'm thinking just a bit actually, the drumming gets stepped up a bit and the 'do-do-do-do-do-do's etc. start and there's some spoken word in the mix (I LOVE SPOKEN WORD) and then finally everything kicks in and it gets heavy and you know this just became one of my favourite songs on the album and I hadn't even paid it much attention before. DO-DO-DO-DO-DO-DO-DO etc.
YES! YOU TALK TOO FAST
A friend of mine doesn't like superfluous exclamation marks. I think he'd be okay with this one though, since it's so needed. This song is well manic, as you'd imagine, and it has a great first couple of seconds and continues being great (although maybe not quite as much) and I love the backing vocals a lot. "Oh, oh, you'll never". I'm never really sure what I make of Alexei's voice. I think in the wrong context it could become annoying. This is the right context though. Johnny Foreigner always are, and I like his voice.
DJs GET DOUBTS
This is pretty gorgeous. It's a lot slower than the rest of their songs, more understated, and the vocal harmonies over "these little white lies" are just lovely. They slow down even more and then come back with a jangle, champagne girls and the boy/girl vocals are just completely amazing. They're not shouting, they're lamenting, there's no such thing as a free night out, lies hurt you, we knew that already but they tear through you like a Christmas cracker. This is a bit of a breather, but it's not filler, it's just brilliant.
SOMETIMES, IN THE BULLRING
Johnny Foreigner, of course, are from Birmingham. I believe that the name of this references somewhere in Birmingham. This is one of the catchiest songs they've done, and it references car-parks and shopping centres and casio keyboards. It's like the end of the world and this is all that's left, but they're singing about being drunk and waiting for someone in the city, waiting although they're impatient, you can hear it. TRACEY, TRACEY. I'm becoming less coherent as I progress, sorry. I love the screaming near the end. I MAY BE DRUNK BUT AT LEAST I'M STANDING UP.
YR ALL JUST JEALOUS
For the record, I like the 'yr' thing. Not because I take it to be a Sonic Youth reference, but because of, er, the Black Mountain Poets. Sorry. Anyway, I just think it's quite a cute abbreviation. Especially when you sign emails with it, like, yrs, Charly. This one starts fast and pretty much stays like that. I love the bit at the end with the two vocal parts.
At 5:00 exactly, this is the longest track on the album. I sometimes even manage to get bored with songs that are less than two minutes long (hi, I have a short attention span - actually writing this whole post in one go is a pretty big deal for me) but this song isn't boring. It's a bit slower than some of their others, and mixes some pretty great girl backing vocals with the drumming and guitar parts. This song is pretty much about the drumming for me, though, awesome.
THE HIDDEN SONG AT THE END OF THE RECORD
Let's take a minute to reflect on how awesome this song title is. The lyrics, again, from what I can tell, are pretty great, about being sick in the mornings and putting up with what you've got and there's some call and response vocals, sort of, and yelping and imperatives, great a cappella moments, and everything is coming in time, even as this album runs out of it. And it does run out of it. But that was a pretty awesome 43:20 minutes, thank you for accompanying me.
Seriously, when this comes out, buy it! It's not my favourite album of the year (I'm sorry, but Los Campesinos! took that position months ago and are clutching it with their xylophone-mastering hands) but it's one of them and it's just too much to miss out on. It sounds like a summer where everything's a bit confusing, where maybe it's too hot or you've forgotten to eat. You need that sometimes. Go for it.