Highlights: Joshua Amrit, Pan-European Supermodel Song (Oh! Gina), Cyrano Masochiste, Erotic Letter
Barring those who don’t have a clue, there are two kinds of people: those who think that Johnny Borrell is a cunt and those who think that Johnny Borrell is a talented cunt. Since Razorlight’s albums were okay at best, it took Borrell’s first solo album to tell me which side I’m on. And considering that Borrell 1 was met with such deadly, hostile indifference, I’m only too happy to report: there’s a great songwriter in there, behind the arrogance, narcissism and all those other things I don’t even mind seeing in an artist.
Also, I applaud The Guardian for their unintentional PR campaign. Back in May they ran a quirky little article that was supposed to mock Borrell’s song titles from the new album: “Ladder To Your Bed”, “Erotic Letter”, “Cyrano Masochiste”… Christ, they even had a vote regarding which title is the most ludicrous. Thus, I not only learned about the release of Borrell 1, I instantly became hooked. Because God knows these song titles are brilliant.
However – we all knew Johnny Borrell could present himself, so what about the songs? Well, I actually found this album absolutely delightful. Based mostly on piano and saxophone (there’s almost no guitar here), the songs come strong and gutsy. The hooks are good, the backing vocals are copious and effective, the instrumentation is sharp and powerful, and even if a few slower tunes aren’t as hard-hitting as Borrell thinks they are (“Ladder To Your Bed” certainly lacks that central punch), the swirling piano groove of “Cyrano Masochiste”, the sheer catchiness of the single “Pan-European Supermodel Song (Oh! Gina)” or the carnal, tongue-in-cheek charm of the closing ballad “Erotic Letter” are worthy of more than the whole catalogue of most of your favourite indie bands.
Still, if anything, you are mostly going to hear bad things about this album. Borrell will be dismissed as that one-time-Libertine cunt who once dismissed Dylan. Many will actually do that without even paying too much (or any) attention to the songs. Worse still, they will tell you how fucking great those xx albums truly are. Me, I will do my happy toe-tapping to the irresistible singalong that is “Each And Every Road”, thank you very much. Believe you me, this is confident, classy songwriting all around. Johnny Borrell! Who could have thought?..