Release Date: Mar 10, 2009
Record label: Mercury
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
No recent album has trumpeted its grand aspirations louder than Slipway Fires. Razorlight are already multi-platinum sellers, and every stop has been pulled out to emphasise their third album's great importance. The promotional CD can't be played on a computer, implying that if it could, reviewers would be unable to stop themselves heading to the nearest P2P site, gripped by the compulsion to share such an significant artistic statement with the ravening hordes.
Razorlight’s career to date has been a pretty predictable affair. After the raucous, Libertines-esque garage rock of the debut Up All Night back in 2004, they moved on stylistically with the non-album single release of “Somewhere Else”—a stadium-begging song that hinted at Dire Straits, or Bruce Springsteen at his most overblown. And sure enough, with the 2006 self-titled sophomore set they sounded like Dire Straits covering the Strokes.
Slipway Fires is Razorlight's most mainstream release to date, an album that downplays the band's garage rock past for something akin to Snow Patrol's adult-approved pop. Thick harmonies and economical hooks demonstrate Razorlight's growth -- they're no longer ripping off the Strokes, having left the swaggering sounds of Up All Night far behind. This is an album of earnest piano ballads and well-scrubbed rock, although the earnest posturing at times gives way to something like "Tabloid Lover," a fun, shamelessly trashy romp that sets up shop in the Bangles' pop palace.
Laws of diminishing return don't bend in the face of Johnny Borrell's bedroom croon, but Razorlight's Slipway Fires manages a glow even in low light. Between the two best tracks that bookend the UK quartet's third LP struggles an album slighter than the last, which was already thinner than the first. "North London Trash," trademark Borrell auto-sneer, rocks tight British execution, as does the runaway "Hostage of Love," another Fires highlight.