Johnny Foreigner – Johnny Foreigner Vs. Everything
Record Label: Alcopop! Records
Release Date: November 7, 2011
Fine, Johnny Foreigner, we get it. You are the one-gazillionth band to sit us down and remind us that even though nothing is ever really that hard, well, in fact, everything is really hard. With lyric after lyric of I-Can’t-Believe-I-Was-Betrayed or You-Don’t-Like-Me-Like-I-Like-You, Johnny Foreigner Vs. Everything is exactly what you expect from these emotionally/electronically charged British spazz rockers. But the question is, why aren’t we tired of this yet? Why do we keep coming back for more of this stuff, day after day after terrible, miserable, backstabbing day? I really don’t know.
I’ll never know. But I can speculate.
The reason is simple. We love Johnny Foreigner because sometimes when life is all the bullshit things I mentioned above, all we really want is something to agree with. And that’s really all music is. It’s something set to a tune that we can get behind. It’s something we can see ourselves in, even if we sorta hate ourselves when we stare at the silent phone far too long or leave the party far too early. Maybe we’re all big dumb babies, but that’s what we are. And there’s plenty of time to change – I think – so why not let the displeasure of songs like “Hulk Hoegaarden, Gin Kinsella, David Duvodkany, Etc” or “200x” rush through us like all the alcohol we claim to so desperately need?
When Alexei Berrow and Kelly Southern’s affectionately offbeat vocals yelp lines like, “So somewhere there’s a party you’re not invited to / I don’t know it but I’ll get there soon,” we might scoff at first but then we’re like, “Yep.” (To be fair though, that line is literally a fact.) Johnny Foreigner Vs. Everything should be applauded for its willingness to be a time capsule of youth malaise. It’s not rocket science, but it shouldn’t be. Popping in a record like this means you clearly have a mindset that you’re looking to bolster. And bolster it does, through melodramatic mid-tempo rockers like “Jess, You Got Yr Song, So Leave” and the almost-cutesy ukuluele-led stand-out “Doesn’t Believe In Angels.” The latter song has perhaps the album’s most simple yet telling line in, “What if all we ever get / Is each other.” It sounds bleak, but from the way that Berrow and Southern trade off the line, it seems more hopeful than anything. Even though all that’s out there are people like us, well, thank god for that.
Over a massive 17 songs, Johnny Foreigner Vs. Everything is almost a retrospective in the way it showcases the band’s zanier, noisier moments all the way up to the more restrained and less freewheeling indie rock. That might mean you’ll find more than a few tracks to skip - depending on your Johnny Foreigner habit. But it could also mean it’s an album that might work as well in pieces as it does as a whole. Which is usually something that turns me off, but like I said, things are very rarely cut and dry. I don't mean to make excuses for an album that could probably use some editing, but it does have sort of a Swiss Army Knife Effect: Use what you want only when you need it. That’s definitely not why this album is called Johnny Foreigner Vs. Everything, but it is nice to have an album that uses its themes of defeat and hardship to help us beat whatever it is this world hurls at us next. So, why do we keep coming back? I’m not sure we really have a choice.
Recommended If You Like: Los Campesinos!, Foals, Cats and Cats and Cats