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AAA Music | 20 January 2022

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JOHNNY FOREIGNER – You Can Do Better

| On 26, Feb 2014

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Birmingham’s Johnny Foreigner have been casing the indie-rock joint for close on a decade, with the peak of their success coming in the form on their 2008 releases ‘Eyes Wide Terrified’ and Salt, Peppa and Spinderella’. At the time their sound was current, stimulating and with a real sense that they would be regarded in the same light as other emerging indie acts Bloc Party and Los Campesinos! In years to come; however much like the fore-mentioned Los Campesinos!, Johnny Foreigner seemingly fell by the way-side, or did they simply do it the way they wanted? Not a fast track to mainstream success but instead a long and hard fought career doing what they love.

Fast forward to the present day and the band are set to release You Can Do Better at the beginning of March on Alcopop! Records. The album presents itself as a robust collection of balls to the wall indie-monoliths, delve a little deeper however and the complex layers begin to show themselves. Opening track ‘Shipping’ conforms to the balls to the wall structure nicely; vivid memories of listening to Taking Back Sunday in your mates shed will most likely wash over you with all the pop-punk trimmings. ‘Le Sigh’ offers up some multi-layered male/female vocals from frontman Alexei Berrow and bassist/vocalist Kelly Southern, a staple of the band’s sound, adding a beautifully simple chorus hook.

In Capitals’ shows off a more tentative side to the band with a middle eight section very much in keeping with Canadian indie outfit Tokyo Police Club. The riffs are kept at bay for all of three minutes for the glorious and contradictory named ‘Riff Glitchard’, instead the Johnny Foreigner repertoire is expanded out to a progressive exploration of synchronised subtle strings and an effervescent rhythm section. The riffs are brought out in full force for the break-neck duo; ‘The Last Queen of Scotland’ and ‘Stop Talking About Ghosts’, the latter coming as an album highlight  with that nostalgic taste of early 2000’s pop-punk rearing its head once more.

‘Wifi Beach’ arrives as a perfectly presented package of wailing guitars and delicate vocal melodies with notions of being ever connected to one another through technology. You Can Do Better takes its final bow starting with ‘To The Death’, another dose of intricate, inter-locking instrumentation and well thought out vocal harmonies, with Berrow’s and Southern’s tones complimenting throughout. ‘Le Schwing’ is more of the same in many respects; it is perhaps the lack of diversity the album offers that at times overshadows the moments of creative greatest.

Closing track ‘Devestator’ is built from layer upon layer of delicious easy listening filling until just like that; your face is firmly smashed into said construction and left with no hint of remorse, rather just a hypnotic, pulsing heart-beat. If you can survive the three minute hypnosis Johnny Foreigner do repent with their ‘To the Deaf Secret Track’, a soothing outro to an album packed full of jolts and traumas.

You Can Do Better is an accomplished record from a band that certainly knows their place and is perfectly comfortable there. The reminiscent edge of the album doesn’t so much feel dated and unoriginal but rather showing a sense of reverence to the indie-rock bands of yesteryear.

Andrew Major