Razorlight to brighten up Boston

by Caroline McKenzie | 1/5/05 6:00am

Okay, true story: It's New Year's Eve, and The Dartmouth's arts section says to itself, "Huh, what should be my resolution for 2005?" A difficult question for anyone, but seeing as the arts section is already thin as paper (literally, I mean) and doesn't like chocolate anyways, its only option left is to resolve to "improve itself." The arts section thinks to itself that it really likes running concert reviews. But, damn, wouldn't it be nice if more people could go to those concerts and enjoy them with the writers?

Huh. Let people know about concerts before they actually happen? Give readers a chance to experience shows for themselves, instead of living vicariously through some chuffed writer? Quelle nouvelle ide!

So, with semi-regularity, the arts section has resolved to dish out the dirt on lesser-known bands performing in the Dartmouth vicinity before they hit the stage. Then, maybe readers can chose to attend said concerts, without reading reviews of shows they're pissed they're missing. And if you read the article and don't hit the show, you'll at least come out of it with enough knowledge about the band to shove in the face of your nearest and dearest music snob.

For the inaugural article of this novel series, the band Razorlight has been chosen. Razorlight, a little band which has gained massive popularity in the United Kingdom since the release of their 2004 debut, "Up All Night," has experienced only muddled obscurity in the great big U.S. of A. The band is now embarking on a tour of the states after a string of sold-out shows in the U.K. On Jan. 10, they will be playing the Middle East in Boston, Mass. -- a stone's throw from Hanover, if you patronize the Dartmouth Coach or Vermont Transit.

Singer Johnny Borrell is the public face of Razorlight. Any Meyer Wolfshiem might mention that Borrell has the most important thing in the world, "gonnegtions." And in the world of new rock, Borrell's connections are pretty important: he's a schoolmate of John Hassall and used to play occasionally with Hassall's band, the Libertines.

But Razorlight is not an acoustic facsimile of the Libs. Borrell's voice coos at a lower octave than the child-like pitch of Doherty and sounds liked it's been smoothed and processed. On songs like "Vice" he edges close to sounding like Jarvis Cocker, and at other times he's more in the range of Howlin' Pelle Almqvist of the Hives. But comparisons aside, Razorlight consistently produces a relatively stripped-down form of garage rock, lead by Bjorn Agren's sturdy guitar work and Borrell's catchy lyrics.

Their songs range from pop perfect ("Rip It Up") to slightly more soulful ("Up All Night"), but perhaps their standout song is "To The Sea." Admittedly, the production-less version Razorlight performed on London radio station XFM far outshines the album version, but it's still a fantastic tune. It begins with an intoxicating and playful guitar riff and then continues mostly on a sturdy thumping drum and Borrell's simple but compelling voice.

Another fantastic song from the album, "Golden Touch," proves that simplicity is the key to Razorlight's success -- and the results are often great, if not fantastic (or highly amusing, as when they performed their own lo-fi rendition of "Hey Ya!" on the BBC Radio 1).

Razorlight's recent tour of England was so massively popular that they had to add extra shows to the end of the touring schedule. They're now posed to conquer America in the same fashion, and they've got the ability to do it. From the sounds of their album, any rock fan will want to be up all night with the band in Boston come this Monday.