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9 out of 10
Sometimes a band just gets you. Inexplicably, irrationally gets you. It's even better if they get you by accident (You catch a song on the radio or, like me, you turn up early and catch them supporting another band who they blow away). Johnny Foreigner are one of those bands, where you learn all their names (Alexei Barrow, Junior Laidley, Kelly Southern), all the words, remember entire set lists, what t-shirts they were all wearing (Plain white, plain black, light yellow) and who stood where (Stage left, stage centre, stage right). You download the 15 demos they've put online for free, buy last year's mini-album 'Arcs Across The City' with its cool pop-up packaging and get very, very excited when their debut proper comes out and it's, naturally, the best record you've heard all year. Well, that's how it is for me anyway.
It's not perfect, it has bits that are skipable (Though not many) and bits that are messy (The many cataclysmic blasts of guitar and off-kilter harmonies between Alexei and Kelly), but life has bits that a skipable and messy which are just as important as the good, clean bits. 'Waited Up Till It Was Light' is magnificent in its joy and chaos; the current generation of British bands obsessed with US indie bands (Hot Club de Paris, Los Campesinos!, This Town Needs Guns, etc) reaching its peak. Earlier songs such as 'Our Bipolar Friends', 'Cranes.' and 'Yes! You Talk Too Fast' still possess their original untidy charm, while 'Eyes Wide Terrified' and 'Salt, Pepper And Spinderella' are poppy enough to take them at least as far as The Cribs have gone with their mix of chart, critical and cult success. If he latter isn't a future single then the record label are mad, because it's brooding keyboard build-up to a clatter-punk-pop finish can be put in the same bracket as 'The Wrong Way To Be' and 'Used For Glue'.
The acoustic 'DJs Get Doubts' is a revelation, showing off not only how good Kelly's singing voice can be but also Alexei's cleverness as a lyricist. That it's a thing of alt. beauty is a massive bonus. The understated, scruffy-but-epic discordance of 'Absolute Balance' is also captivating. Johnny Foreigner are, to put it in lazy journo bluntness, one of the best bands since the Pixies. They'll expand people's record collections via their points of reference and the bands they call friends, but those won't be loved like this record will be.
1. Lea Room
2. Our Bipolar Friends
3. Eyes Wide Terrified
4. Cranes And Cranes And Cranes And Cranes
5. The End And Everything After
6. Henning's Favourite
7. Salt, Pepper And Spinderella
8. Yes! You Talk Too Fast
9. DJs Get Doubts
10. Sometimes, In The Bullring
11. Yr All Just Jealous
12. Absolute Balance
13. The Hidden Song At The End Of The Record