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Johnny Foreigner – ARCS ACROSS THE CITY

Best Before Records

Written by Will Hitchins

In the words of Public Enemy – “Don’t believe the hype”. This is my mantra for all fashion shows following the Ann-Sofie Back show. My first warning was when they served tiny little portions of mushroom risotto out to the waiting audience. I hate mushrooms, order buy and they had no alternative. It was a bad omen, but I was prepared to excuse as the venue was pretty cool. The Topshop show space in the University of Westminster was a vast warehouse with as much potential as Andy Warhol‘s Factory. Then the lights dimmed, the music started and I knew we were all doomed for the next 20 minutes. First the music: it literally didn’t make any sense. It was a comedy sound-scape that could well have been the backing music to a Laurel and Hardy film. It had no rhythm, no progression and no point.
Then came the clothes. Ann-Sofie Back gave us a collection inspired by OK! and Heat. No, I’m not joking, these are the actual words that she uses in the press release. Any designer that references Britney Spears “pixelated crotch” as inspiration is one that needs sectioned.
All the clothes looked as if the hem had come down, got caught in a revolving door and then been chewed by a dog. Apparently this was homage to Kate Moss’s disintegrating Dior dress at the opening night of The Golden Age of Couture at the V&A. On one particular dress the unravelled hem attached to silver anklets around the models leg. Oh, and some of the models had garters around their thighs. It was all a bit wife-swapping-in-the-suburbs for my liking.
If Ann-Sofie Back is determined to use the C-list celebrities as her inspiration, then who does she hope to dress other than these fame hungry vultures that haunt the weekly gossip magazines? Just as Britney inspired Justin Timberlake‘s Cry Me A River, this collection made me want to weep. Ann-Sofie is definitely not bringing sexy Back.

Alexei of JoFo with a terribly inaccurate flier outside the Liverpool Barfly. (Ed’s Note: There is no one called John or Johnny Foreigner in the band.)

Johnny Foreigner have, approved like so much British Beef reared talent of late, had huge amounts of exposure and press without as of yet releasing an album. However on the back of this near- perfect little EP Arcs Across the City I would say all the digital chatter is fairly justified. JoFo essentially play noisy, cluttered and down right chaotic indie pop at its best, never allowing themselves to forget that it is imposing rhythmic vocals that are needed to win an audience over.

The opener Champagne Girls I Have Known hurtles into view in a way which epitomises the frenzied feel of the band, messy guitar and sporadic drumming opening up, and then getting into swing with a controlled form of chaos. What makes the song – and indeed the band – truly special, is the perfectly balanced duel vocals of Alexei and Junior which compliment each other beautifully. There are perhaps even elements of the ignoble Mark E. Smith in the haywire shouting, the words sounding occasionally uncontrolled and existing independently of their creators. Balancing this on the other hand are the wonderfully melodic lines and segments that arrive out of the clutter, on Suicide Pact, Yeah the vocals sound particularly fine, with a perfect little refrain appearing as girl and boy come together to sing “I’ve got nothing to lose“. The self cited influences of Dismemberment Plan and Q and Not U are glaringly present but JoFo are by no means simply an amalgamation of the two, creating as they have a genuinely unique sound, same but different if you will.

Johnny Foreigner sound as though they have somehow captured the musical zeitgeist at this present time, components from hand clapping to synthesisers to glockenspiel are all present however where lesser bands might use these tools in a derivative or tired way, JoFo integrate many elements together in a manner which is not at all forced. Almost in parallel to fellow new comers Los Campesinos! it feels as though they have been coming for a long time, an amalgamation of trends of the current time, drawing on so many influences yet somehow remaining fresh.


Photograph by Christel Escosa


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