Razorlight are probably the first of the landfill indie contenders who had the press turn quite viciously against them. It came on the back of them eventually having a high degree of chart success – their sixth, seventh and eighth singles all went Top 3 in the UK, one of which actually reached #1 in October 2006 – so they were among the first to really cross over into the mainstream.
I’ve a copy of the debut album, Up All Night, which was released in June 2004. I gave it a listen the other day for the first time in possibly 15 years and I have to admit that I found myself enjoying a few of the tunes, which got me thinking I would spare them from being sent to the increasingly large landfill indie site. And then I remembered that their lead singer was a complete bellend…and I’ll call on my great friend SWC to provide some info, taken from a post he provided back in May 2014:-
The music industry is a fickle old business. Both within the industry itself and through the fans who support it by purchasing the music. For instance, one day you will hyped to be the next big thing after a favourable review in a cool paper, or you get some exposure on the radio or something. It all goes a bit bananas and everyone loves you. Then you get to release some records and they live up to the hype and riding on that success you suddenly are the Next Big Thing. Then you have to go away and produce something new, and everyone forgets who you are.
Take Razorlight for instance. Back in 2002 when lead singer Johnny Borrell formed the band, he was already kind of well known having supported and been part of the scene that clustered around The Libertines. Razorlight’s first gig ever, was supporting much under rated American rock band The Von Bondies.
Razorlight in 2003 were subject of one of the biggest signing wars of recent times, every label wanted them because they were a sure-fire success waiting to happen. Their demos were already being played on XFM (indie station in London only at the time). Their records didn’t disappoint, the debut album ‘Up All Night’ released in 2004 went to number 3 in the charts.
After that Razorlight got bigger still when they release the single ‘America’ from their second album ‘Razorlight (JC adds ….this is the track that reached #1).
With the success Borrell’s mouth got bigger, he got the movie star girlfriend (Kirsten Dunst), then the press and the public fell out of love with them. For me it was the moment when Borrell was in some magazine with his top off, not strictly a bad thing, it’s not like he was the singer in Ultrasound or anything, but he was wearing WHITE JEANS, that rock n roll imagery he tried so hard to conjured up, just slipped away, no one in their right mind wears white jeans, let alone be photographed wearing them.
They released a third album ‘Slipway Fires’ in 2008 it says here that it got to number 5 in the charts, yet I don’t know a single person who owns a copy or will admit to buying it (it was critically panned). Borrell released a solo album last year which sold less than 1000 copies, so in around 6 years he has gone from being one of the country’s biggest rock stars to selling less records that Darius Danesh; Christ, I reckon I could record an album and sell more than 1000 copies of it.
Razorlight are still on the go today, but there was an extended spell of when nothing was being recorded and no tours were being undertaken, all while Johnny Borrell tried to launch a solo career. It’s worth noting that Borell is the only member of the original line-up still involved in Razorlight and that over the past almost 20 years, there has been an almost Fall-esque coming and going of musicians with ten folk having come and gone, almost all of whom have been less than complimentary about the lead singer, and there are a number of accusations of him being a selfish control freak, particularly from original drummer Andy Burrows who claims he was never given any credit for his part in wriring the music, with Borrell preferring the world to think it was really all down to him.
But, as I said, I had a listen again to the first album and, just like the Four Tops and Orange Juice, I can’t help myself. It has some very fine songs on it and there’s an especially decent run from tracks six to nine
The first sign of a backlash, especially from the NME, came with the release of the first new material after the debut album. The single Somewhere Else was ridiculed for its lyrics. It’s follow-up, In The Morning, got a mixed reception with the reviewer from Drowned In Sound leading the case for the prosecution with the comment “We are not about to allow Razorlight to shower their already overly praised frames in further commendations and recommendations, when the material they produce is not simply poor, as such, but depressingly, irredeemably average”
The next single was the #1 hit…and in case you’ve never heard it or forgotten it:-
mp3: Razorlight – America
I didn’t like it at the time. Still don’t. Couldn’t really put my finger on it as I did my best to switch stations if it ever came on the radio or the video appeared on the TV screen, but the PopMatters critic nails it:-
“soft rock hell…..checklists every cliché of that criteria that makes it come off as similar to Foreigner and Boston than U2 of The Joshua Tree”
So, as much as I want to give Razorlight the benefit of the doubt, it pains me to say that a very good debut album doesn’t come close enough to compensating what has come since. Off to the landfill you go…