Does anyone in England hold a 9 to 5 job anymore? The Royal Family has been standing around for decades looking either in need of a handful of prunes or some black coffee. Somebody should give those sots a job. Meanwhile, seems every working-age lad is in a Rock band attempting to become the British Band of the Week (BBOTW). Thankfully there's a large enough immigrant population to do the necessary real work.
Once a group has achieved BBOTW status they race over to the U.S. proclaiming their homeland popularity in the hopes the Americans will be induced to swoon and fall over themselves. It happens, on occasion, but more often than not it's a long haul as Razorlight found out.
Razorlight started in '02 as a partnership of vocalist/guitarist Johnny Borrell and guitarist/vocalist Bjorn Agnen (he's from Sweden, you know). Later, bassist Carl Dalemo and drummer Christian Smith-Pancorvo joined the London based band. Some demos earned radio airplay which led to signing with Mercury Records and working, albeit briefly, with Steve Lillywhite (U2).
Razorlight continued playing live while recording their debut, taking time out to bounce over to the States for South By Southwest in Austin. Upon their return to London, Smith-Pancorvo left and was replaced by Andy Burrows.
"Up All Night" hit in the late summer, '04. For a group working a combination of the Strokes and Britpop, Razorlight did something strange. They opened for Paul Rodgers/Queen and Oasis. Sure, these two (or is it three) entities were popular and still had drawing power, but their core fans were a bit on in years. How was playing for the parents of their target audience going to increase their fan base?
"Your father and I went to see Paul Rogers and Queen last night and there was this other band, Razorlight, we thought you might like."
Odd. Perhaps at this stage of the game any audience will do. Must be a British thing. It sure worked though. "Up All Night" became a Top 5 album in the U.K.
Having performed with The Who at Live 8, Razorlight played the '06 Teenage Cancer Trust concerts which were organized by The Who's frontman, Roger Daltrey. From there they opened for The Who on select dates. For the Big Ask, Friends of the Earth campaign, Razorlight contributed "Funeral Blues" which was cut at a solar powered recording studio in London.
Razorlight's self-titled sophomore album landed in the summer (they obviously like summer releases), '06. It made its debut at #1 on the U.K. Album Chart. "In The Morning" landed at #3 on the singles chart. A backlash resulted with early fans claiming the group had "sold-out and gone mainstream."
Containing U.K. singles "Wire To Wire" and "Hostage Of Love," Razorlight's third effort, "Slipway Fires" was an '09 U.S. release. And for a change up, this one came out in the spring.
2004 Up All Night
2008 Slipway Fires
Razorlight's self-titled sophomore effort starts with Borrell in David Byrne mode on the uptempo "In The Morning." But it's the catchy mid-tempo piano tune, "Who Needs Love" that really draws attention. Borrell sings "I've taken more than enough" with genuine conviction. "The jaunty Rocker "Before I Fall To Pieces," "Pop Song 2006" (a R.E.M. update), and the Garage Rocker "Back To The Start" resonate. The album also features some retro moments. "Kirby's House" plies '60s pop-Rock while "Los Angeles Waltz" uses a Vox organ - can't get much more '60s than that.
Though "Razorlight" is good, "Up All Night" is stronger. They charge out of the gate with "Leave Me Alone" and "Rock N' Roll Lies." There's a trio of inconsequential songs before they cut loose again on "Rip It Up." That's followed by the set's stellar track, the intimate "Don't Go Back To Dalston" with the "come back to me" refrain.
A couple ballads are worth noting. For "In The City" Borrell tosses out the lyrics like improv lines - though they're probably well rehearsed. It's one of the few songs where the vocals hold it all together. Nice trick. The album closes with the dramatic "Somewhere Else" with its strings and acoustic guitars.
Little changes on "Slipway Fires." The album opens with the pensive "Wire To Wire." The piano-ballad is followed by "Hostage To Love," a track anchored by an acoustic guitar. As good as these songs are, they beg the question, "when is this album going to kick in?" Finally, the bass thumping "Tabloid Lover" and the Punkish "Northern London Trash" do the trick. But rather than ride the momentum, there's a turn toward Folk on "60 Thompson" and even a stab at a torch song with "Stinger" before the catchy power-pop of "Burberry Blue Eyes. "Monster Boots" starts like yet another ballad before morphing into a pretty good Rock song.