Waited Up 'Til
It Was Light
Best Before Records/Nettwerk
By Kevin Hakannson
The latest in a long line of talented British indie rock bands is Johnny Foreigner, hailing from Birmingham. The buzz about this trio began not long after the band's ‘06 formation, with a pair of independently-released 7-inches. They released the Arcs Across the City EP on Best Before Records in 2007, but it took some time for the band to kick into full gear, and put together a proper full-length debut. Waited Up 'til It Was Light is said debut, and it serves as a nice introduction to the public at large of a band whose name has been on the lips of those in the know in England for a few years.
One thing that Waited Up makes clear from top to bottom is just how full of energy Johnny Foreigner is. After the opening "Lea Room" starts with a benign synth line, the song soon jumps into gear. Drummer Junior Laidley gets a workout here, and throughout the album, proving quite adept at pounding the hell out of his ride cymbal and snare drum at a breakneck pace. Guitarist/vocalist Alexei Berrow debuts the rapidfire shout that becomes commonplace throughout the album, and bassist/vocalist Kelly Southern provides some of the prettier vocals, before she herself jumps into a shrill scream to end the tune.
The band switches things up a bit to being "Our Bipolar Friends," with Southern showing she's got a voice that is, while not pitch-perfect, is cute and sweet. Don't get used to it, though; Berrow's angular guitar lines take over again, and before you know it, the song's remaining three minutes feature his shouting and strumming.
Berrow's guitar work is on display throughout Waited Up, and it continually proves unique and virtuosic. He rips lightning fast solos on the likes of "Yes! You Talk Too Fast" and "The End and Everything After." What's more, Berrow's guitar freakouts almost always seem to accomplish his own sing-shout verses. However, Southern proves over and over that her band is better off letting her handle the majority of the vocal duties. She trades lines with Berrow on "The End" and handles the majority of the melody on the lo-fi "Salt, Pepper, and Spinderella." Her beautiful voice makes an appearance on most tunes, but those on which she takes the lead prove to be a treat.
Johnny Foreigner is at their best on their debut full-length when they're clearly playing together, and perhaps even with other album guests. Southern leads an uplifting gang vocal to cap off "Eyes Wide Terrified," while the band is at their tightest on the following "Cranes and Cranes and Cranes." Considered a three piece, it seems Johnny Foreigner get plenty of help from their friends, and manage to fill their debut's 13 songs with unbridled exuberance. Such energy, combined with the star potential of the duo of Berrow and Southern makes it seem rather likely that the attention that Johnny Foreigner has garnered in the UK will go global.