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Album Review: Johnny Foreigner – Johnny Foreigner Vs Everything

 
By on Tuesday, 8th November 2011 at 12:00 pm
 

In their own words, ‘Johnny Foreigner Vs Everything’ is “exactly as perfect/imperfect as we are” and “if it fails IRL, then it does so as proof we just aren’t good enough”. Safe to say there’s a lot riding on this. For all intensive purposes, Johnny Foreigner have been a nearly band. Recognition surrounding their first album ‘Waited Up Til It was Light’ never gained them the recognition it deserved, and their weaker second album ‘Grace and the Bigger Picture’ would have threatened them with obscurity had it not been for the commitment of their fans to the cause. Now, 2 years and a series of EPs and releases later, the band have re-emerged with this, their third and possibly most honest album yet.

The track listing reads as a “last 12 months’ compilation” that includes a reworks of EP tracks and the final fruition of their ‘Certain Songs are Cursed’ project in which their fans monologue their worst heartbreaks and the track that reminds them of it most. These serve as the ghosts and time frozen interludes between each section of the album.

Side 1 / Life seems personal, opening with the Johnny Foreigner of old. Powerful yet intricate, half shouted yet still understandable. “Waking up entangled doesn’t mean you’re meant to stick together, waking up alone doesn’t mean you should get drunk, split up” in ‘With Who, Who and What I’ve Got (Standard Rock)’ goes to the intimacy of ‘200x’, possibly the band’s best slower song to date. The segment ends in ‘Johnny Foreigner vs You’ which would feel intrusive if not so charming. That’s the border that Johnny Foreigner tread in this album: the line between intrusive and kind of cringy to the endearing and relatable. In the form of the interludes (’Concret1’ and ‘Concret2’), it’s possibly on the wrong side, yet they’re still needed to break up the album into sections.

Side 2 / Significance is possibly the undoing of ‘…Vs Everything’ in that it’s possibly the least significant part of the record. Each song individually makes sense, but only ‘Supermorning’ really stands out as having real character. Some songs are lyrically strong (‘Jess, You Got Yr Song, So Leave’) whilst others are just good tunes (‘Electricity Vs the Dead’) and some only have one or two perks (the buildup at the end of ‘New Street…’) but only ‘Supermorning’ combines the two really well.

Luckily, as far as solid album material goes, it’s made up for on Side 3/ Magic! as ‘(Don’t) Show Us Yr Fangs’ (video below) through to ‘The Swell/Like Neverwhere’, a track that could only work on an album with a concept such as this, prove that Johnny Foreigner are definitely not the kind of band that you can listen to once or twice and just throw into the pile.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQ0omgVU-z4[/youtube]

Lex, Kel and Jun needed to make this album, and both existing fans and new fans of Johnny Foreigner, should be glad they did.

8.5/10

‘Johnny Foreigner Vs Everything’, the latest album from Johnny Foreigner, is available now from Alcopop.

 

Tramlines 2011: Day 3 Roundup

 
By on Tuesday, 16th August 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

Fortunately, the weather once again holds out on Sunday as thousands of music fans flood into the centre of Sheffield for the last day of Tramlines 2011. By early afternoon, venue capacities become how many people will fit and still be able to get to the bar and the main stage has a steady moving queue. For this reason, I return to the New Music Stage, which today is curated by local screamo/hardcore group Rolo Tomassi. The band have great taste, as the first band I see are Brontide, proper post-rock that appears to convert those present who weren’t already fans. 65daysofstatic are amongst a group of local bands to really bring this genre to the forefront of new rock music so it’s great to see Brontide get such a good billing in the city centre.

Later, London group Three Trapped Tigers also grace this stage but I decide to go for another Tramlines speciality in the form of the Busker Bus. Created and curated by local band Bromheads, the busker bus (crowd shown above) takes punters on a trip across Sheffield (and back) with the benefit of artists playing a gig at the same time. I arrive just in time for today’s special guests, the Everly Pregnant Brothers (photo below). Playing their third set in as many days, the Yorkshire band are comprised of about 10 ukulele and other small instrument-playing middle aged men. Sounds like a recipe for disaster right? Actually, it’s brilliant and quite refreshing to hear a band play a version of Talking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’ with all of their own words, whilst a hundred people crammed onto public transport all “fafafafaafa”-ing along. At the stop, everyone’s off and they manage to out-Sheffield Jarvis Cocker at his own song as the group play ‘Common People’ before going into the pub to play another set whilst the bus riders get back on and back to the centre. Next up on the bus are late additions and ever popular Johnny Foreigner. Playing some quieter tracks ahead of their main stage show later today, ‘I’ll Choose my Side’ is put alongside an as of yet, unnamed track to treat those present.

Upon being returned to the city, I head straight for the main stage. After featuring a selection of pop from Olly Murs and Pixie Lott yesterday, as well as Joshua Radin and Guillemots, today’s line-up is distinctly more electric guitar-friendly. I arrive in time to catch the Phantom Band’s sound make its mark on the city and with dedications to any single-malt drinkers in the crowd (sorry security, you missed my flask), the band bring a slightly synthesized and electric folk blended set of tracks to the main stage. The second and much larger set of Johnny Foreigner’s day comes in replacement of their fallen friends: “to anyone at the back who’s confused, we’re not Frankie and the Heartstrings,” explains front man Alexei. Playing to a crowd the size of “an entire tour” the band (pictured below) play tracks that are nearest to being the ‘hits’ collection and do it well. Scatterings of fans across the crowd appreciate to start, many more are dancing, a little, by the end. Even new song ‘Electricity vs. the Dead’ leaves fans seeming quite happy with the progress the band have made.

It’s the hit makers up next though. The Futureheads bring a set list that’s been tried and tested for months in similar billings to Sheffield and get everyone doing “the bouncy bounce” which is effectively jumping in time, as well as constructing mass sing-alongs for ‘The Beginning of the Twist’ and the ever popular Kate Bush cover of ‘Hounds of Love’. It’s the kind of music festivals like Tramlines exist for.

Not that it stops there though, because this evening’s headliners have even more crowd pleasers. Ash (pictured at the top of this post) open with ‘Girl From Mars’, reminding everyone just what a tour de force they’ve been since day one and now with the added sound of Russell Lissack (Bloc Party member two of my weekend), they’re sounding even more like a band worthy of headlining such an event. Their set features all the expected hits, some recent singles from their ‘A-Z’ project and even covers of ‘Teenage Kicks’ and Weezer’s ‘Only in Dreams’ alongside set and festival closer ‘Burn Baby Burn’. What a way to close a festival!

Tramlines probably should have some sort of limits and caps, but I’m not sure there’s a way to implement that without ruining so much about what makes it incredible. Hundreds of bands playing a mass array of free live music can only be good in my eyes. Until next time, thanks Sheffield.

 

PIAS Label Love #2: Three of Braden’s Favourite Albums, Ever!

 
By on Friday, 12th August 2011 at 11:00 am
 

Editor’s note: Braden has chosen three of his favourite albums – ever! – and hopefully this post will persuade you to buy these albums in digital format – or if not these three, others from the labels affected by the SONYDADC / PIAS warehouse fire. Read more about the labels affected in this article from the Guardian.

Bon Iver – ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ (album’s page on JagJaguwar Web site | buy it from Play.com here with bonus track ‘Wisconsin’)
It’s hard to think that over 3 years ago that Justin Vernon sent himself off to a woodcabin in Wisconsin and wrote the masterpiece that is ‘For Emma…’ 2008, however gave us the beautiful record that has touched the lives and hearts of thousands. ‘Skinny Love’ is enough to break a heart and ‘For Emma’ is the kind of track that mends them again. If any album deserves to rise from the ashes in the same way that that it’s writer and listeners alike have, it’s this.

Frank Turner – ‘Love, Ire and Song’ (buy it from Xtra Mile here)
As far as albums that mean something me, Love, Ire and Song is one of the few that has ever truly moved me. From the beginning of I Knew Prufrock, in which Turner goes through his group of friends and describes life, a connection is built that never goes away and in something like Reasons not to be an Idiot, relating goes to a whole new level of cliche without ever feeling cheesy. Frank Turner is a man who knows how to get to me and his success is built upon years of relentless writing and touring, so for any of that to be lost due to what’s happening in London right now seems beyond tragic.

Johnny Foreigner – ‘Waited Up Til It Was Light’ (buy it from Best Before here)
With the minor Birmingham ‘riots’ and the London riots destroying much of Johnny Foreigner’s stock, it only seems right to feature their debut album. ‘Waited Up…’ is one of my favourite records and for good reason. From the start of ‘Lea Room’ all the way through, it’s power-pop at its finest from the Birmingham trio. ‘Salt, Pepa and Spinderella’ becomes something of an indie anthem and the JoFo following really set off from here. Especially if you haven’t heard Johnny Foreigner before, give this a listen and download it, you won’t regret it.

 

Interview: Alexei Berrow of Johnny Foreigner

 
By on Monday, 4th April 2011 at 12:00 pm
 

“Chicago is Birmingham’s twin city”, an excited Alexei Berrow of Johnny Foreigner tells me. The indie pop-rock band are proud of their Midlands roots. Lex is currently telling TGTF about how the circulating ‘Harriet, By Proxy’ video came to be. The band travelled over to Chicago after director J. Matthew Nix offered to film a video for the track. Expecting a student project, the band agreed. “We were totally wrong. There was pretty much a whole production company with schedules for driving us around the city’s sites for filming. We were so amazed that these guys had donated their time and skills. It was proper old punk,” Lex recalls.  The band put the video online and asked their fans to spread it around. Bandmate Kelly wasn’t quite done though. “She encouraged people to make up lies and put it on the most inappropriate forums possible. As a result there’s a thread on the Lady Gaga website where people, touched by our ‘story’, are uploading their own tributes to the monstress”, laughs Lex.

Johnny Foreigner, as a three piece, have always been a DIY band. Their debut EP, ‘Arcs Across the City’, was originally made as a pop up 12” artwork and even after two studio albums, the JoFo dedication to both vinyl and handmade designs hasn’t changed. ‘You Thought You Saw a Shooting Star’ is an EP that’s taken time to both record and create, with the band handmaking each one of the 500 12” records themselves. “It’a taking f***ing ages and it’s still not done! Each one takes about 25 minutes, but it’s totally worth it when you see batches of photos
of childhoods, holidays, parties and artstuffs become hand cut ghosts on the sleeves”, a proud Alexei explains.

Even after all of this, they’re still working on a new album – recording a new album across scattered Birmingham sessions. With the aim of having 16 songs and cutting down to a 12-track final record by the time they finish in April, the band are relaxed. “We weren’t pressured straight back into making another full album which is good because now we have time to disassemble and play around with everything much more. It’s not as concentrated, but it sure leads to a better result.”

Away from recording, one thing you may not know about Johnny Foreigner is that they’re big fans of cake. An unsurprising fact, until you find out that a chain of their trademark ghosts have appeared on JoFo style cakes. Starting from a Glaswegian fanzine duo, the band have been presented with a fair few cakes in their time. “Everything good in the world should have some kind of relationship with cakes”, Lex tells me.  The best? “The indisputable queen is Julia Christmas, who made us a proper ghost cake in exchange for guest list in Brighton. We were scared to eat it until Kelly forced us to one morning because it would have gone off. It tasted amazing, but felt rude.”

Catch Johnny Foreigner on tour across the UK this month.

 

Preview: Camden Crawl 2011

 
By on Friday, 25th February 2011 at 11:00 am
 

Camden Crawl 2011 will be taking place right smack dab up against the royal nuptials, but judging from the line-up, the organisers are taking this in their stride. The initial evening line-up announcement was made earlier this week, with St. Etienne, Toddla T, Hadouken, the Kings Blues and Villagers (pictured above) revealed as headliners. Bands championed by TGTF including Frankie and the Heartstrings, Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Johnny Foreigner, Little Comets, cocknbullkid and Dinosaur Pile-Up are also scheduled to appear.

Early bird and VIP weekend tickets are now sold out, but a weekend ticket is available for £63.50 not including booking and transaction fees and Saturday or Sunday single tickets are £39.50 not including booking and transaction fees. They can be purchased online here or at selected HMV stores around the UK, more details here.

For a full listing of the line-up announced so far, click under the cut.
Continue reading Preview: Camden Crawl 2011

 

Johnny Foreigner / April 2011 UK Tour

 
By on Friday, 25th February 2011 at 10:30 am
 

Johnny Foreigner will embark on a tour of the UK in April. They will also make appearances in March for a Topman CTRL show and at Camden Crawl in May.

We’re told the band are currently hard at work on their third album, and mum’s the word at the mo’ (darn).

7th March 2011 – Birmingham Custard Factory (Topman CTRL show)
Saturday 2nd April 2011 – Edinburgh Haddowfest
Sunday 3rd April 2011 – Edinburgh Haddowfest
Tuesday 19th April 2011 – Aberdeen Cafe Drummonds
Wednesday 20th April 2011 – Glasgow Nice n Sleazy
Friday 22nd April 2011 – Nottingham Bodega
Saturday 23rd April 2011 – Preston Mad Ferret
Sunday 24th April 2011 – Milton Keynes Sno Bar
Tuesday 26th April 2011 – Birmingham Hare and Hounds
Wednesday 27th April 2011 – Liverpool Shipping Forecast
Thursday 28th April 2011 – Manchester Night and Day
Friday 29th April 2011 – Stoke Underground
Saturday 30th April 2011 – Wimbledon Grove Tavern
Sunday 1st May 2011 – London Camden Crawl

 
 
 

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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