Johnny Foreigner - Waited Up 'Til It Was Light (Cover Artwork)

Johnny Foreigner

Waited Up 'Til It Was Light (2008)


So you guys liked Los Campesinos!, right? Then allow me to introduce you to Johnny Foreigner, because they may have passed you by across the pond. Trading in violins for fake drum beats and the sweet girl vocals for shouting, shouting and a lot more shouting, this Birmingham three-piece make as much, if not way more noise than their Welsh tourmates despite having less than half as many members. Although I know it's poor form to review an album by mostly comparing it to something else, it can't be helped: the two bands have a similar core sound that fires off in different directions and it is probably fair to say that if you like one, you may well like the other.

Whilst Los Campesinos! occasionally drew comparisons to Broken Social Scene, Johnny Foreigner have a comparable, but much more punk and math rock-influenced sound, a fair candidate for the English equivalent of Algernon Cadwallader and the like. The guitars are the driving force here -- none of that messing around with glockenspiels and strings -- and they are spiky and melodic in equal measures. The vocals, too, are much more aggressive, informed less by Pitchfork Media self-awareness and more by youthful energy and getting drunk in the city.

The band prove themselves to be pretty versatile, from the slow, melodic guitar intro of "Eyes Wide Terrified" giving way to jittery drums and a dirty, distorted chorus to the minimalist drum machine and vocals duet of "Salt, Pepa and Spindarella" that eventually explodes into massive guitar noise and battles with a ‘do-do-do' vocal part. Then there's "DJs Get Doubts," your token acoustic ballad which, admittedly, borrows more than a little from Los Campesinos! with the strings and glock forsaken elsewhere on the record, and a chorus line of ‘ooh's. Finally, "Absolute Balance" starts out slow, building into a mostly instrumental climax with the band shredding away in to nothingness.

All of these are well placed throughout the album to break up the otherwise overwhelming onslaught of fun, frantic indie-dance-math-punk-rock-whatever, dense with sing-alongs, amusing regional accents and esoteric references to the city of Birmingham. All of these are best represented in a track called "Sometimes in the Bullring," one of Waited Up ‘Til It Was Light's best moments, so I guess if you want to know if this band is for you, then that's the place to start.

Oh, and if cover art is your thing, then there's a fair bit to appreciate here, with seven interchangeable covers featuring photos of the city they spend so much time harping on about, overlayed with colourful cartoons of ghosts. An all-round fantastic package.