Let it never be doubted that Johnny Borrell is a Rock Star. As one of the darlings of sensationalist UK music rag NME, the frontman of England's Razorlight has made waves in the music world with his claims to be a better songwriter than Bob Dylan, the biggest star on the European music circuit, and leading a better band than his former vehicle, The Libertines. It's the sort of talk that the critics dismiss, the fans applaud, the detractors mock, and the music journalists lap up. That all adds up to a hell of a lot of buzz but, fortunately for Borrell and company, it also results in one hell of a good debut album.
With Up All Night, Razorlight manage to live up to the hype and bravado and then some. At first it seems like a poppier take on The Strokes, but somehow the boys of Razorlight make their songs more jangly, more hooky, and more fun than the last offerings from the NYC garage-rockers. There's nothing grungy or gritty about Razorlight's sound, which is brightly infused with Britpop guitar charm and pouty, crooning vocals. Opening track "Leave Me Alone" is one of the best examples of their infectious cheer, careening through keyboards and Bjˆrn ?guen's jaunty guitar chords to reach its howling conclusion. Not to be outdone, the sunny rawk of "Vice" eventually dissolves into Borrell's hypnotic ranting, including him rattling off his cell phone number and encouraging listeners to call him. No American rock star's paranoid fear of the fans here. And "Don't Go Back To Dalston," while not exactly Dylan in terms of songwriting, has got one of the catchiest refrains on the whole album - the simple repetition of "just come on back / come back, come back" overtop of clashing drumbeats and taut melody for the entire last half of the song. Just try to not dance around your room to this song, I dare you.
Although you won't find a lot of depth or introspection on Up All Night, it's still a bouncy little nugget of British pop rock with nods to garage and retro. It'll be interesting to see how Razorlight matches this album when it comes time for their sophomore effort, but for the time being, they can be relieved that their efforts matched their singer's boasts.
Writer: Caitlin Hotchkiss