…And it starts like. Well no, it doesn’t anymore. Where to start in telling the story of Johnny Foreigner doesn’t really matter anymore. On the closing track of their third full length record ‘Johnny Foreigner vs Everything’ there’s the words “Hey, 2009, that was always almost enough.” It’s a self-consciousness of what; in terms of sales and hype was their peak, ironically placed on an album of as good quality as the material that placed them there. This awareness doesn’t fade in record four in the slightest. Front-man Alexei Berrow introduces the record with the words “It was patience that choked us in the end” before (an ever vocally improving) bassist Kelly Southern joins the chorus.
No, You Can Do Better is not the kind of album that ignores its roots, but nor is it the kind of album that traces them back in panic nor pulls them out of the ground in search of an altered timeline.
It’s no secret that here at Sound Influx, we’re fans of Johnny Foreigner, but that shouldn’t diminish the following statement. This might just be their most cohesive record since the first waves of Waited Up… first brought our collective ears to their music. There’s the maturity to whack in a quiet section in without becoming boring, but there’s still the boldness to take on a huge sound and win, basically at will. Lead track Le Sigh is a monster of a building track whilst just two songs later Riff Glitchard’s (we do love a good pun) delicacy and attention to lyrical detail (“I might as well be an organ in your body, the damage I do when I do nothing”) leaves you feeling drained of all emotion just before The Last Queen Of Scotland re-energises for the rest of the record.
Of course, a complete self-consciousness of your surroundings can come across as paranoia and Wifi Beach’s mix of about five different song ideas thrown into one is as bad an idea as it is a good one both sonically and artistically. In other places, the blunt honesty of To The Death’s “I need a spell to stop my friends from feeling guilty every time they talk about you” and the entirety of album closer Devestator, will resonate with listeners not too dissimilarly than that of Keaton Henson or Manchester Orchestra.
There’s something to be said for making honest music with the relative ambition of consistently getting better. Johnny Foreigner have encountered both the highs and derailments of this acclaim, but with their fourth effort; maybe it’s time to stop trying to call them out on all that’s come before and all that’s come before them and just listen to what is simply a solid record from a band doing exactly what they should be doing at this moment in time.