If all rock musicians had Johnny Borrell's self-belief, there wouldn't be any need for publicists. Few singers of recent years have talked quite as good a fight as Borrell, who in one particularly fanciful outburst even compared his own songwriting to Dylan's. At times, it seemed as if the band were prospering by sheer force of (his) will. But just because he says it's so doesn't mean it's so, and, thus, it's with some relief that one notes this album's improvement over Razorlight's Up All Night debut is largely due not to Borrell but to his bandmates' efforts.
Guitarist Bjorn Agren, in particular, has rapidly matured into a player of sensitive versatility, whether inscribing a delicate guitar filigree around the epic "America", essaying the brisk new-wave strut of the single "In the Morning", or cranking out the meaty riff which hoists "I Can't Stop this Feeling I've Got" from its tentative, confidential opening to a suitably billowing, Springsteen-esque climax. In the secure hands of legendary producer Chris Thomas, the rhythm section, too, has a confident swagger, with new drummer Andy Burrows providing safe anchor for the Motown stomp of "Hold On" and the clipped Talking Heads-style riff of "Pop Song 2006", and laying down a rolling tattoo beneath "Before I Fall to Pieces".
If that sounds like a broader range of styles than were employed on their debut, so it should: there's even a faux-R&B number, "Who Needs Love?", while the album climaxes with the grandiose lilt of "Los Angeles Waltz". The band's ambitions are focused on America, despite their acknowledgement of a general sense of dissociation from the country's cultural mores. "There's nothing on the TV, nothing on the radio that means that much to me," he claims in "America", despite having spent "all my life watching America".
Then again, much the same seems to apply to Britain, judging by his complaint, in "In the Morning", that "everything on the radio sounds the same" - a situation that Razorlight, in its sheer variety, seeks to alleviate all on its own. Thematically, it's mostly of a piece - or two pieces, anyway - with Borrell's ingrained Romanticism manifesting itself in the sentimentality of the love songs, or the dream-chasing ambition that drives a song like "Back to the Start": "I don't know why I feel this way, but I couldn't stay here one more day." Perhaps the crucial line on Razorlight's situation comes from "Los Angeles Waltz": "I know it's not easy when you don't get what you deserve." With this assured second album, the band are leaving nothing to chance in their determination to achieve their ambitions.
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