Johnny Foreigner – Grace And The Bigger Picture (Best Before)

JoFoJohnny Foreigner is doing all the things that no-one else will do.

In Waited Up ‘Til It Was Light JoFo [as they have been affectionately abbreviated] released one of the best records of 2008 and the best debut from a British band in many a year. Grace And The Bigger Picture still has everything the debut was lauded for; it’s spasmodic in its delivery and it’s quintessentially British.

With dueling boy/girl singers eager to step over the other’s lines JoFo has always been a band in a rush and thankfully they’ve lost none of their verve or enthusiasm, nor have they re-hashed last year’s effort. Notably the songs are leaner, with just two reaching the three minute mark.

It would be somewhat misleading to say that the record is a more focused affair because it still exists somewhere off of the wall; a place where lo-fi garage rhythms mix with bright and clear vocal tracks that lift into sprightly scratches and screeches.

By rights this should be a mess but JoFo always manage to catch themselves. They get faster and more unwieldy, but they retreat back to precisely picked strings and an all-together more stable form. They have perfected the precision and dynamics of reckless abandon [see ‘Security To The Promenade’].

They understand that beauty born from madness is all the more striking, as so often Kelly’s sweet voice battles with Alexei’s and victors, finishing the phrase in isolation. They have realised that their sum of parts are equal without each other.

That’s not to say the gang-chants of ‘Feel Like Summer’ are anything other than thrilling. ‘Some Summers, some Summers’ is something of a catchphrase for the record. Indeed when the track starts with a sharp shock of feedback and ignites into the riotous sing-along you prick up your ears, duly noting their most single-worthy track.

The refrain is repeated at the rear of the album in an unsubtle attempt to instill some continuation. A trick repeated on the ‘More Tongue, Less Heart’ variation of ‘More Heart, Less Tongue.’ However this does little to mask the albums gloriously sporadic nature. It’s too quick-witted, too enthused to be cohesive.

Whilst lyrically the bands’ ‘revelations in student unions’ style can be straightforward, the overall image is ingrained as much with glib as sincerity. The band is liable to turn itself on its head in a split second. It’s the trademark of one of the best bands in Britain.

Rating 5/5

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