In case Los Campesinos!’s debut album Hold On Now, Youngster wasn’t enough of a sensory overload for some listeners, take solace in knowing that Birmingham’s Johnny Foreigner cranks up the aural assault to an even more ridiculous degree. And I mean that in the best possible way. On Johnny Foreigner’s debut Waited Up Til It Was Light, the UK trio explodes through the speakers, fueled on their own restless youth, a month’s worth of sugar, and maybe a little booze just to keep things nice and loose. These blokes (and lass) aren’t just energetic, they’re downright giddy.
The opening keyboard notes on leadoff track “Lea Room” sound friendly enough, even recalling the new wave emo-pop of The Anniversary. Before long, guitars surge, squeal and scratch, and a buoyant, unstoppable indie rock anthem is born. Vocalists Alexei Borrow and Kelly Southern harmonize jubilantly, “get out before the ship goes down,” though as the song comes to its climactic close, Southern’s vocals escalate to a shrill scream, intensifying the already overwhelming track. “Champagne Girls I Have Known” offers showier guitar work and even more glass shattering screams from Southern. Strangely enough, that very throat shredder sounds curiously like a particularly iconic Icelandic diva on the intro to “Our Bipolar Friends,” though any Björk-isms are soon blunted by more punchdrunk punk rock shredding.
A shuffling beat propels the mega-fun “Cranes and Cranes and Cranes and Cranes,” while “The End and Everything After” finds the group playing with start-stop dynamics. Yet, while the beats are, without question, precise, Borrow and Southern seem to be sprinting the entire way, rocking the fuck out without entirely being able to keep a tight rein on everything. The momentum is just a step removed from being completely out of control, and to some degree, it’s that unapologetic lack of restraint that makes this band super fun, but by no means the cleanest sounding.
The spirit of punk rock is alive in Johnny Foreigner, and then some. The young UK group hardly stops to breathe on Waited Up Til It Was Light, which may explain why Borrow occasionally sounds like he’s on the verge of hyperventilating. And after hearing this unrelenting death race of a record, you just may do the same.
The Anniversary – Designing A Nervous Breakdown
Los Campesinos! – Hold On, Now Youngster
Hot Club de Paris – Drop It Till It Pops
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.