Released 8th July 2016 via Alcopop! Records
If you’re old enough to remember 2008 you may recall the Andrew Sachs scandal, Shannon Matthews’ disappearance and Jade Goody’s cancer. It wasn’t all japes and chortles though; there was the start of the recession, bank shares taking a pounding and political upheaval. A cynic may argue that very little has changed. But then, that would be cynical.
However, 2008 should also be remembered for some great, era-defining albums. There was obviously the odd rotten egg (Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy and anything that Chad Kroeger breathed at), and the beginning of the end of credibility for Kings of Leon; but there was also The Midnight Organ Fight (Frightened Rabbit), Antidotes (Foals), Late of the Pier (whatever happened to them!?), Hold On Now, Youngster (Los Campesinos!) and Bon Iver. Even Kanye was palatable. Up there with the best of them was the fantastic Waited up Til It Was Light, the debut album from Birmingham trio (now four-piece), Johnny Foreigner. It was bubble gum and popping candy. It was frantic and seizure inducing. It was fantastic.
Placing all nostalgia aside, the band’s fifth album in ten years, Mono No Aware, is as unique and creative as anything it has ever released. You wouldn’t realise that the time had passed. I Can Show You The Way To Grand Central is still spunky, gritty and raw, and The Worst Of Us is packed full of crunchy guitars, witty lyrics and smiles. Cliffjumper takes the “Jo Fo” formula and cranks it up some, resulting in a ballsy explosion and a guitar riff that should be sectioned.
Undevestator crackles before ejaculating into a trademark guitar frenzied riff. How guitarist/singer Alexie Berrow hasn’t burnt his fingers down to nubbins is a mystery. It’s one of the standout moments on the album, bristling with angst and boasting an anthemic chorus as Berrow and Kelly Southern (bass/vocals) wail, “What were you waiting for?”
Into The Veldt and If You Can’t Be Honest are equally joyous and big-hitting, the latter declaring: “If you can’t be honest with him, be honest with yourself.” There’s still a beautiful naivety at heart, which makes Johnny Foreigner so endearing.
But there are also some signs of maturity edging their way onto Mono No Aware. If You Can’t Be Honest climaxes with a beautiful, brass-filled sigh and Our Lifestyles Incandescent flirt with melody, structure and soulful experimentation. There’s defiance in the lyrics; “Just ‘cos we don’t party like we used to, doesn’t mean we’re not alive”. Dissect the songs on Mono No Aware and you’ll find a band still full of youth, honesty and tenderness, with Decants The Atlantic the cutest of these moments: Southern mourning from the first meandering strum through to the long fade out.
Undoubtedly, there’s a touch more subtlety about Mono No Aware. There’s an openness to experiment with the formula, and there’s reflection in the lyrics (“I had time enough to reminisce all that shit you got done in your twenties”); but the best thing about Mono No Aware is that it still sounds quintessentially Johnny Foreigner. It’s like a slow-striptease instead of full-frontal nudity. A cynic may suggest you’re still left with the same result. A cynic may suggest that very little has changed.
Artist: Johnny Foreigner
Ten years, five albums, one unmistakeable sound. Johnny Foreigner return with another album full of blistering indie-pop, songs of innocence and anthems for doomed youth.