If you’ve spent the last seven years blissfully unaware of the melodic noise-pop sounds common to Johnny Foreigner records, then describing ‘You Can Do Better’ as exactly what you would expect is nothing more than an empty remark. If, on the other hand, you’ve followed the band from the beginning, then you shall not be disappointed.
Having admitted taking inspiration from the favourites of their formative years, it’s to no surprise that opener ‘Shipping’ oozes Blink-182. From the phased drum fills to the call-and-response choruses, it’s clear that the band have been pacing the path of nostalgia with this release. Despite this, the trademark intrusions of Kelly Southern’s distorted vocals are as present as ever ensuring that above all, this is a Johnny Foreigner record.
The cyclic, ethereal guitar melodies of ‘Riff Glitchard’ take the album away from the shouty, youthful sounds of its forerunning tracks. Instead it leads the record towards a post-rock, Mogwai-esque plethora of sounds that, more than anything, act as a welcome break amongst the madness.
‘Wifi-Beach’ interrupts the sweeter indie-pop chimes of ‘Stop Talking About Ghosts’ with a striking dose of guitar feedback and aggression that scream live show sing-along. If you’re looking for a track that will nestle itself cozily in between your ears for a week, then this is the one.
‘Devastator’ knocks in at an intimidating 10:33, which, to the naked eye, is nothing more than off putting. Fortunately for Johnny Foreigner, listening uses ears. ‘You Can Do Better’s’ conclusion is, although lengthy, a prime example of the consistency of sound that the band has achieved since their conception. With its three minutes of silence and typically downbeat lyrics, a horn section for good measure and a catchy pop-punk riff to open, ‘Devastator’ is the work of a band who truly know what sort of music they want to make.
With a few tracks going amiss over course of the record, it becomes easy to throw ‘samey’ into the mix of adjectives that ‘You Can Do Better’ provokes. ‘Samey’ doesn’t quite do it justice, though. Safe might be more suitable. Some might even say reliable. But, when push comes to shove, it’s exactly what the band set out to create. ‘You Can Do Better’ is a Johnny Foreigner record.