Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Noughties By Nature #100: Johnny Foreigner - All Moseley Gardens

Were it not for the band being wonderfully prolific, drawing a line between "old Johnny Foreigner" and "new Johnny Foreigner" would be sort of a ridiculous endeavor. After all, we're talking about a relatively young band that played its first gigs only four years ago. But facts are facts and there is a hell of a lot of Johnny Foreigner music to pore over, and in this writer's opinion much of it stands out as being among the best of this waning decade. The early Johnny Foreigner stuff falls squarely into a "we made it at ours" bucket, versus the newer "we made it at theirs" material whose production was paid for and the product of which is manifested in the torrent of singles and the EP and two albums that have been on offer for the last three years. But early on, in the pre-Best Before years (more accurately "the Laundrette years" or the "we recorded it in our lock-up" years), hunting out the music was almost as exciting as the music itself. Even from the beginning there were scads of tracks, and ardent searches of web sites that launched and shuttered in rapid succession yielded massive rewards. We currently have 149 tracks from the Birmingham-based noise-pop outfit in our iTunes.

Perhaps our favorite among these (and, actually, statistically our favorite song based on iTunes playcount) is the early acoustic ballad All Moseley Gardens. Fans either first encountered the track among the stuff collected in the various demos collections (there were at least two versions of I Like You Mostly Late At Never, and another called Every Day Is A Constant Battle, if memory serves) or as The Hidden Track At The End Of The EP, 2007's Arcs Across The City. We went to see Johnny Foreigner's American live debut in New York two years ago, drank a lot, and have a vague recollection of drummer Junior Laidley telling us that the trio included All Moseley Gardens on Arcs because we kept blogging about it. Given our proclivity for generating and believing false memories, this probably didn't happen. But who knows?

While we wouldn't discover it until about a year later, the production of All Moseley Gardens is dead similar to that of the music on the "lost album" We Left You Sleeping And Gone Now. Which is a shorter way of saying adventurous lo-fi production that includes voices - and sheep? - in the periphery, borderline inscrutable but memorably poignant lyrics, weird keyboards, xylophone - you know, "old Johnny Foreigner," yeh? But the real hook of All Moseley Gardens is the stinging emotional weight conveyed in Alexei Berrow's murky lyrics. Berrow's words ("on the train back I think I said get out as fast as you can... and you're never gonna change your mind, no you're never gonna change your mind...") gather into a kind of bruise the broken-hearted can carry with them like a lucky charm to try to ward off the shittier days. That makes for a pretty great song.
Jay Breitling

[Spotify (after 4:11)]
[YouTube (live)]
[Mini-album: Arcs Across The City]

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