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Johnny Foreigner vs. Everything by Johnny Foreigner
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8/10 Mike 10 July 2012

We didn’t have time to review this one when it first came in because sometimes there are so many new records that we have to be a bit selective. I felt a bit bad though because I’ve always had a soft spot for this band, ever since they sent me one of their early 7”s because they wanted to play a gig I was putting on, and it’s been great seeing them develop over the years.

They’re still peddling the same kind of sentimental, hyperactive, earnest and extremely ‘90s-influenced indie pop they always have, but on this LP they’re dragging the formula out to its very furthest extremes - the expanded vinyl edition of this album is a mammoth 22 songs long, essentially giving you two albums for the price of one. There’s a couple of concrete pieces built from speech samples sent in by fans which is a sweet gesture and does help anchor their nostalgic approach but may have turned out a little bit more cloying and uncomfortable than intended. Those are mere blips in a tapestry of cinemascope indie which takes cues from ‘90s favourites like Urusei Yatsura, Pavement, Archers Of Loaf, Braid...and maybe a nitro injection of that mid-’00s wave of shrill hyper-pop bands like the Mae Shi and Rapider Than Horsepower.

They’re one of those bands I find it very hard to criticise. Their ‘Waited Up...’ debut remains their defining statement for me, but there’s an almost Minutemen-esque workmanlike attitude they take to constantly writing and releasing material that makes each record feel a bit like a progress report in their quest to reinvent their own youths through sound, and to sculpt them into something dramatic and vivid and indelible. Sometimes it feels like high-concept art dressed as children’s entertainment.

Business Lady just joked that the first LP here is entirely opening tracks, and the second one is entirely closing tracks, they’ve all got that churning emotional urgency to them. They’re just trying to make teenagers’ hearts explode like their hearts exploded when they first heard great indie rock in the ‘90s. I get it, and even though I don’t think they hit the nail on the head every time there’s enough endearing, energetic, nostalgic rock on these LPs to keep 15-year-old me happy for weeks.


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