Johnny Foreigner are one of those bands I’m almost certain I like. They’ve been recommended to me a bunch of times and I’ve enjoyed seeing them live, but I couldn’t really get into any of their albums bar a couple of songs. So, after the acquisition of a second guitarist, and reading mixed reviews of ‘You Can Do Better’, I decided to give them another chance.
I was pleasantly surprised. You can hear distinct references to many of Big Scary Monster’s ex-bands, such as Tubelord, Cats And Cats And Cats, and Colour, but they still keep their identity and all of the songs sound like Johnny Foreigner of old. It’s a good mix.
Opening song ‘Shipping’ passes you by pretty quickly, but the second song ‘Le Sigh’ suddenly grabs your attention. It’s fast paced, with catchy lyrics, and the stop-start structure you can expect from Johnny Foreigner. Third track ‘In Capitals’ begins exactly like a Cats And Cats And Cats rip-off, but becomes something much bigger when the guitars kick in. Three tracks in, and two of them are very good. I wasn’t expecting that to be honest.
Then comes ‘Riff Glitchard’; quite possibly my favourite track on the album. It’s a lot slower and brings a welcome change of pace. It’s fairly minimalist and could almost be a ‘The xx’ song, until the ending descends into a whole lot of noise – but in a good way.
The next few songs pick up where the earlier songs left off: catchy choruses, fast-paced and lots of stops and starts. ‘The Last Queens of Scotland’ and ‘Wifi Beach’ are particularly good, but final song ‘Devastator’ is a bit of a damp squib. Similar to ‘Shipping’, it would be better placed elsewhere on the album to leave stronger songs to open and close the record.
‘You Can Do Better’ may not be a typical Johnny Foreigner CD, and I don’t know how much hardcore fans will like it, but I do. It is poppier than their earlier albums, so it may be a guilty pleasure, but I’ll happily take that title; it’s something light-hearted and will definitely be a summer favourite of mine.
– Alex Ryan