Review: Johnny Borrell – Borrell 1
Published on July 25th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Has Johnny Borrell ever thought of appropriating Beastie Boys’ “Johnny Ryall” for his own means? And if not, why not?
Actually, scratch that. It’s a ghastly idea.
Borrell’s rather self-importantly-titled debut album Borrell 1 has been met with heaps of cynicism, not least from Rocksucker; we were never fans of Razorlight, although that “Girl With the Golden Touch” tune was decent enough for an early-noughties MTV2/NME type thing.
Contrarians that we are, we were perfectly willing to give Borrell a shot at redemption. Heck, it might have made us look dead clever if we’d come out and told you that, actually, the man’s a genius after all.
Had the song titles not tallied with the lyrical content, though, we’d have assumed we had the wrong album.
Borrell 1 sounds strangely like the work of an aging rock star who’s been packing out the big arenas for too long and consequently has little if any motivation left to push himself artistically. Perhaps this is something Borrell dreamed of himself, or he really is as deluded as his self-aggrandisement always made him seem.
Frankly, it sounds like he’s making music solely to sound good on expensive car stereos. “You can really feel that acoustic guitar, it’s so crisp.” That sort of thing.
Given that he’s only 33 years old, it’s quite bizarre how ‘latter day’ this sounds; like a new McCartney album, or The Kinks in the ’90s.
“Power to the Woman” is a decent enough Elvis Costello impression without feeling in any way necessary, ditto “Ladder to Your Bed” and “Dahlia Rondo” but subbing out Costello for Bob Dylan.
The shuffly percussion, cheesy saxophone and calypso-lite sway of “Joshua Amrit” sounds particularly odd coming from someone of Borrell’s years and standing, while “Pan-European Supermodel Song (Oh Gina!)” is unfortunately a much better title than it is a song.
As the album wears on it all becomes much of a muchness, the only track to make any kind of impact being the endearingly playful and slightly messed-up “Cyrano Masochiste”. You can almost imagine Tom Waits growling over the top of its dark sort of Soca rhythm.
Johnny Borrell’s new sound is not what we expected – we’ll give him that – but it falls well short of constituting a masterstroke. Sorry, we’d have loved to tell you different.
Borrell 1 is out now on Mercury Records Limited.
Rocksucker says: Two Quails out of Five!