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March 24, 2014 | by  | in Arts Music |
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Johnny Foreigner – You Can Do Better Review

Maybe I’m too old for Johnny Foreigner; maybe they are too. On my third re-listen, a few hooks are starting to stand out, a few lines are bouncing around my head, a few melodies are surprising me – but it’s not quite there. As they have on everything I’ve heard of them since their excellent debut, Waited Up ‘til It Was Light, Johnny Foreigner kind of sound like their own tribute band.

But I’m probably being unfair. It’s been years since I worshipped the stop/start, guy/girl, too-punk-to-be-twee but too-earnest-to-be-punk indie pop that Johnny Foreigner excel at. I love their first album too much for anything else they make to seem worthy. Some of these songs have fucking stupid names (‘Le Sigh’ – really?) but they are all pretty good, and full of exactly what I expect from Johnny Foreigner – intensity, honesty, and an uncomfortable level of intimacy.

Opener ‘Shipping’ is particularly fun, full of energetic chords and a chorus that’s stuck in my head – “I’ll stop shipping you/ when you stop shipping me.” There are other highlights here too – ‘Wifi Beach’, ‘To the Death’ – but not as many as one would hope.

Johnny Foreigner added another guitarist to their three-piece lineup before this album, and that may be my problem. There just feels like there’s more of it now, like they have to justify his presence by cramming in as many riffs as possible, at the expense of some of the other things that made Johnny Foreigner great. The guitar feels a bit further away from the vocal melodies, possibly because they aren’t coming from the same person any more.

Then, I’m probably just too old. Maybe I just need to listen to this album a few hundred times, to scream the lyrics to myself as I walk home in the dark, to imagine myself as every member of the band separately. Maybe then I’ll love Johnny Foreigner like I used to.

 

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