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Razorlight - Slipway Fires

Razorlight, Slipway Fires

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

RAZORLIGHT don’t make it easy for you to love them. Perhaps it’s because they love themselves too much. I’m all for bands exuding confidence and pushing themselves forward, but with Slipway Fires, they could well be taking themselves too far.

The third album from Johnny Borrell and company isn’t without merit (and has several highs), but it’s also not beyond sounding pretentious, worthy and – well – dull. For all its lofty ambition, there’s a nagging sense that perhaps they just need to kick back, have some fun and get back to basics.

At its best, the album is capable of stirring the emotions and hitting some pretty inspiring heights. Lead single and opening track Wire To Wire is a standout, and a firm statement of intent. Piano-based, heartfelt and unlike anything they’ve recorded before, it signals the fuller, more epic sound of Razorlight, as well as the sense of seriousness.

Borrell belts out the lyrics with gusto and meaning, singing as though his life depends on it, and imploring the listener to love him. In this case, they probably will.

But no sooner has he captivated us, then Borrell threatens to switch us off again. Hostage of Love is arguably one of the most pretentious songs of the year. It begins breezily enough, with an acoustic strum and some sprightly piano chords, but the lyrics are pretty inflammatory and will split listeners into those who feel Borrell is singing about himself, or from the point of view of Jesus Christ. Whichever way you take them, they take Razorlight’s worthiness to patronising extremes, courtesy of lines such as “I am salvation and your herald of sin” and – most strikingly – “the truth of my story is widely unknown, words of derision I have swallowed with a smile, for telling my story I have been crucified”.

Elsewhere, the album is likely to leave people feeling similarly divided. Tabloid Lover is the most indie effort on the album, kicking off with a rousing, siren-like guitar riff and developing into a rollicking good listen, complete with foot-stomping back beat and wild guitar solos. There should have been more of it.

But North London Trash fails in spite of its bright piano loops and promising opening, eventually unfolding into quite a tiresome lament about the state of modern London.

If Borrell’s songwriting has thus far been compared to the likes of Dylan and Sting, then 60 Thompson seems to be channelling the spirit of Simon & Garfunkel thanks to its stripped down style and acoustic backdrop. It’s another of the album’s highlights.

But the self-importance returns again with the slow-building Stinger, in which Borrell once again belts out lines such as “if I had to choose between me and you, I’d choose me although I know that I’d lose” and “I love you but I don’t respect you”.

And from then on in, it’s a pretty intense listen. Blood For Wild Blood eptiomises the term “epic” and slow-builds to some worthy highs, Monster Boots unfolds in similar fashion, albeit with a more emphatic drum-roll backing, and The House draws things to a painful, interminable close, with Borrell sounding as though he’s genuinely in pain and in need of a pick me up (lines include “now it comes through me like an injection, anonymous pain throbbing real inside, and every pulse in my body, belongs to the house where my father died”).

If anything, The House brings the album to a close on a seriously downer note, wallowing in self pity and not really endearing itself to repeat listens. The depressed and melancholy may rally, but come the final piano chords, the majority will probably be grateful that it has come to an end.

Slipway Fires, for all its noble intent, is an extremely frustrating listen.

Download picks: Wire To Wire, Tabloid Lover, 60 Thompson, Burberry Blue Eyes

Track listing:

  1. Wire To Wire
  2. Hostage Of Love
  3. You And The Rest
  4. Tabloid Lover
  5. North London Trash
  6. 60 Thompson
  7. Stinger
  8. Burberry Blue Eyes
  9. Blood For Wild Blood
  10. Monster Boots
  11. The House
  12. Weblink

  1. Why is this reviewer jumping on the anti-Razorlight bandwagon? This album is great. Yes, it’s a departure from their usual sound – but it’s also good. I’m tired of journalists bleating on about how bands like Oasis and Kaiser Chiefs consistently fail to change their sound, and then whine some more when bands like Razorlight and The Killers do. YOU CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS GUYS! This album is great.

    James    Nov 4    #
  2. Thought this review was a bit too charitable to be honest. This is one of the most ridiculous albums I have ever heard, both lyrically and musically. I’m sure Johnny Borrell is going to turn round in a couple of years and say “actually, the whole Razorlight thing was just a massive gag; we did it for a bet”. If he doesn’t, then he and his fellow “musicians” are officially the ends of bells.

    Dan, Norf London    Nov 14    #
  3. I think that both songs, wire to wire and hostage of love, are very strong and intense. Maybe people should try to write music like that before start complaining in that way.

    Kat    Nov 20    #