azorlight’s debut, if you have the mental strength to remember it, was released a mere two years ago, which begs the question why the band have already returned with another ten songs. Allow me to borrow some of their childish petulance by saying that thirty-five minutes never felt so long, nor two years so short. Razorlight may feel their talent lies in poorly executed “covers” that turn out to be actual songs that they wrote, but Razorlight proves they have a real knack for bending time until it—or your patience—snaps.
The focal point of the album—though mind you, it’s still blurry—is “America,” a Springsteen tribute in reverse that lacks that artist’s simple, candid lyricism but borrows every inflection of his delivery. Vocalist Johnny Borrell grapples, poor sod, with the peculiar plight of the British, which can be summed up in the song’s title. There are several requirements of a song about neighborly strife, the first being that its singer does not himself possess the most detestable trait of the neighbor he’s speaking of. It’s a political song, and America’s arrogance is the subject. If Borrell wasn’t elsewhere so intent on proclaiming Razorlight a theocracy and himself God, perhaps a four-minute eye-roll at a big, powerful country would seem refreshing, or at least, make a passing grade. But it would need good lyrics to meet that end, and as it stands, “America” is a parody. If the band were aware of their own comedic potential, perhaps they could have renamed the song “The Strokes” and tweaked the lyrical content accordingly. As it stands, the chorus is:
All my life, watching AmericaQuite. In the second verse, we come across, “There’s nothing on the TV / Nothing on the radio / That I can believe in,” and some cheesy Journey howls containing the words “Hold me,” which throws the song’s radio-redeemable emo guitar melody down for the count.
All my life, there’s panic in America
Oh, oh oh, there’s trouble in America
Oh, oh, oh
The only factor that has noticeably changed since Up All Night is that an unnerving big-label sheen otherwise known as the reverb button wallows in every measure of every song, intent on washing post-punk’s mouth out with soap. What’s left is the same subject matter, minus Thatcher, delivered by a gurgling toddler trying to convince us that he’s already had a good run—a thousand lays, affairs with drugs, rehab stints, and a quarter-life crisis to boot. Borrell’s jadedness on another Springsteen rip, a dull two-chord piano ditty by the name of “Who Needs Love?” (“I’m tired of love / sick of love / you give me more than enough”) makes me feel, to say the least, jaded about the fact that he is jaded. Through his eyes, life is a Laguna Beach episode that you snootily huff and puff through, but keep watching until the end. Borrell’s problem might simply be that he needs to turn off the TV and read a book.
Razorlight already proved in 2004 that the only thing worse than a precocious pop sensation is a stunted would-be liberal arts student with nothing to say, and here, just by gracing us with a physical copy of their second album, the band prove that those infamous types are one and the same. A mere listen to Razorlight will remind one that the word ‘sensational’ can also mean ‘presenting information in a way that is intended to provoke public interest and excitement, at the expense of accuracy.’ Now, it’s not that Razorlight themselves aren’t accurate; in fact, the exactitude of their first single, “In the Morning,” is a delight to behold, if you’re a money hungry record producer: their blandest Television incarnation yet struts out to the cues of an artificially conservative ensemble of guitar, bass, and drums, only to be followed by the reiteration, “In the morning, you know he won’t remember a thing,” and nine more exhibitions of pop pomp and lyrical dross. The solipsism and trite accounts of benders from the first album are still there, but the music has gone exceedingly soft. Variations of the original garage formula exist (“Fall to Pieces,” “Kirby’s House”), but only as cheery Paul Weller, or, dare I say it, Phil Collins retrospectives with expected idiotic openers like “Oh, one more drink and then I’ll go.” Yes, please go.