- 14 Nov 18
Superb comeback from Johnny Borrell and co.
It has been a decade since Razorlight’s third album Slipway Fires, which evinced a more mature, polished brand of songwriting. It was an obvious evolution, following their successful self-titled sophomore album – the obligatory “epic” record. Frontman Johnny Borrell’s bandmates abandoned ship in 2010 after unfruitful recording sessions. That rift preceeded frontman Borrell’s disastrous 2013 debut solo effort, Borrell 1, which sold a discouraging 500 copies in its first week of release. Where were Razorlight’s 30 million YouTube viewers when Borell needed them?
That humbling experience perhaps led us to the rejuvenated Razorlight behind Olympus Sleeping. So how does this band, so definitive of the mid-noughties indie aesthetic, sound in the Twitter age? Well, the guitars sound pretty much the same, and Borrell still has that unmistakable vocal delivery. What’s impressive is the passion and vitality of the songwriting. Though Borrell is the only remaining original member, his new band bring fresh life to the frontman’s material.
Indeed, Olympus Sleeping returns to the straightforward rock thrills of Razorlight’s lauded debut, Up All Night, eschewing the more grandiose tendencies of their later work. There’s a tangible exuberance on every track.
Borrell’s vocal and guitar chops boast a remarkable similarity to The Clash’s Mick Jones. The reggae-punk-pop amalgamation of the sublime ‘Midsummer Girl’ is melodic and edgy. ‘Good Night’, a ferociously gritty stomper clocking in at barely two minutes, is a terrific blast of bratty post-punk energy that helps you forget about ‘America’ (almost).
There are more elaborate tunes here – ‘Carry Yourself’ and ‘Iceman’ are impressively complex efforts, showcasing Borrell’s gifts as a writer and performer. Indeed, Olympus Sleeping is a distillation of the best qualities of each of Razorlight’s three previous albums: the inspired vitality of the first, and the ambitious craft of the latter two. That makes Slipway Fires their finest collection yet. Borrell is at the peak of his creative powers. Welcome back, Razorlight!