The wait was definitely longer than expected, but Johnny Foreigner’s debut album Waited Up ‘Til It Was Light (Best Before Records/Nettwerk, 2008) hit digital stores in the United States today. How’s the ‘wait’ to ‘well worth it’ ratio? Shortly: !!! The trio’s debut goes head to head against Los Campesinos! for debut of the year, in my opinion. However, unlike Los Campesinos! Johnny Foreigner hasn’t been getting as much buzz over here. The Birmingham, U.K. group has been the soundtrack for night drives while waiting for the Dunkin’ Donuts coffee to kick in. Having Johnny Foreigner accompanying you through either speakers or headphones is like conversing with a good friend; always interesting, spontaneous, and so multi-faceted it puts a diamond to shame.
Alexei and Kelly form the dual vocal transistors while Jordan lends Casio/drums (even live! see 2:44), creating a unconventionally crafted clash of indie pop and pop punk jabbed here and there with danceability tendencies. Waited… starts up with Lea Room, which sets the mood for the album; eclectic electric guitars allowed to experiment on their own while Jordan’s excellent drumming punctuates perfectly (see Our Bipolar Friends). It’s evident about 1:25 in when the trio drop the beat and tempo after the invariably catchy “Get off before the ship goes down, get off before the ship sinks!” Auditory ambivalence reigns at the point as they downshift into swaying singing and loosely restrained guitars, making you wonder if they truly know what they’re doing-before they confirm any doubts with one of the most random bridges into the final chorus. Random because Kelly unexpectedly (and delightfully) screams those warning words to any unexpected ears. (Of which, her screaming rests unparalleled in recent memory.)
Eyes Wide Terrified, their first single off the album, isn’t as frenetic or frantic as most of the tracks but the most pop-orientated. “But he falls asleep on her shoulder, every shift they spend together-which is most nights.” Snapping fingers and backed vocal choruses sweep up the end of the track, which attaches addictively before speeding back up into Cranes And Cranes And Cranes And Cranes.
Track 4: Eyes Wide Terrified
DJ’s Get Doubts serves as the rest stop of the album, an acoustic track accompanied with a warm violin. Although the wordplay between the members can be chaotically balanced throughout, this gorgeous song displays Alexei and Kelly’s abilities to manipulate the melodies of their voices from whispers to interchanging supporting leads.
Time shifts and stops continue through most of the album, leaving the straight single tempo tradition behind. It’s as if everyone decided to turn off at the right exit while Johnny Foreigner decided to wait out and take the scenic route. Waited Up ‘Til It Was Light is exactly that journey, drifting and perhaps a little lost at times (Hennings Favourite or Champagne Girls I Have Known), but each experience is worthwhile.
Because of the multitude of time changes and tempo shifts, the album is longer lasting than others in their genre. Waited Up ‘Til It Was Light‘s been in contention for top album of 2008 in my figurative books. The album was produced by Machine, who’s worked with the likes of Lamb of God, Eighteen Visions, and Fall Out Boy (don’t let the last one scare you away).
Note: Of the 14 tracks, 5 are reworked tracks featured off their Arcs Across The City EP (Best Before Records, 2007) and Our Bipolar Friends single. Champagne Girls I Have Known previously showed up on Arcs… (2:53), and has a reworked version (3:22) for the North American release. It’s not as strong as the others and doesn’t seem to fit. I would have added Sofacore instead.