Johnny Borrell formed Razorlight two years ago as a remedy for what he calls that “three-quarters feeling” at concerts, that moment when boredom sets in.
“I wanted to do a show that I would want to see,” he said from Boston, where the London-based quartet was set to begin its first U.S. tour as a headliner. “The thing I hated was when you get three-quarters through a show and you become aware of your feet and suddenly your legs feel heavy, and you think, ‘The floor’s quite sticky,’ and ‘What am I doing later?’ and ‘God, I’ve heard this trick already.’
“… To my dismay, I saw so many bands when I was growing up that would just show up and put their heads down and play the record, and to me, there’s nothing happening there.”
Borrell’s cure falls squarely in the garage-rock tradition of Franz Ferdinand, the Libertines, and, most prominently, the Strokes. Jittery, charging tracks from Razorlight’s debut, Up All Night, are chock-full of memorable hooks. The songs wear their influences proudly: “Don’t Go Back to Dalston” alludes to R.E.M.; “Golden Touch” lifts a riff from the Cure; “To The Sea” channels Television; “In The City” rewrites “Gloria,” both Patti Smith’s and Van Morrison’s versions.
“I’ve always felt proud whenever people pointed out similarities to other things, because that’s the point,” Borrell said. “It’s a debut record, and that’s when you’re still paying your dues. It’s the first time you ever made a record, and of course it’s going to sound like the stuff that you’ve listened to.”
But the key, he said, is whether a band’s songs are simply derivative, or if there’s something the group is trying to do on its own.
“There’d be no point in me nicking the chords from ‘Gloria’ if I had nothing to say over the top of it.”