While one of the more memorable lines in its song "Sofacore" suggests otherwise, rising indie rock dynamos Johnny Foreigner always sound like they are falling down. Or at least as if the Birmingham, England-based trio is in mid-careen as it slams out indie anthems for the underground. The band members themselves are so disarmingly charming and self-deprecating in person that it is almost hard to believe that they are responsible for the jagged and desperate sounds found in Johnny Foreigner's recordings. That awkward charisma and a lot of kickass indie rock cohered into a winning opening set at Bowery Ballroom last night that visibly made believers out of the assembled hipsterati who steadily filled the house over the course of the performance. Not bad for a band that has yet to a release a single song in the United States, let alone one that had colds coming on and had been putting in 14-hour days in a recording studio for the previous two weeks.
Johnny Foreigner's opening salvo was a blistering version of "Champagne Girls I Have Known," the tune that ignites the EP Arcs Across The City, which was released in the UK Monday on Best Before (suck it up and buy the import here). The rest of the half-hour's proceedings, padded by amusing commentary from guitarist Alexei, featured frantic renditions of "Yes, You Talk Too Fast!," the anti-gentrification anthem (well, they're all anthems, aren't they?) "Cranes And Cranes And Cranes," and an annihilating version of "The End And Everything After." Alexei provided interesting context for the relatively new track "Eyes Wide Terrified," namely that it was inspired by a lover's surprise choice of bringing a third party into bed. The relatively gentle track crests with the blunt kiss-off chorus, "you're life is a song, but not this one." Incidentally the tune is the first we're aware of that includes a prominent backing vocal by able and affable drummer Junior.
Before and after the set we were able to drink some beer and eat some carrots with the band and members of Los Campesinos!, during which time we learned a bit about the marathon recording sessions Johnny Foreigner were to complete today in producer The Machine's Hoboken, New Jersey studio. The trio reports that it surpassed its goal of recording twelve song by two tracks. And the label is eying a mid-spring release for a full-length record. One question we posed was whether the tilted currency exchange rate, which favors British Pounds over the US Dollar at a ratio of roughly 2:1, influenced Johnny Foreigner's decision to make the record in America. It was surprising to hear that the answer was no, and that the band was more than a little surprised at the buying power the pound has afforded them during their stay in and around Manhattan. Anyway, here is a Flickr slideshow of our shots from last night's show. Yes, we know we need to clean our camera lens.
While Johnny Foreigner's live US debut was nothing short of a success, the remaining two acts on the bill also showed up to play. Delaware-based septet Spinto Band turned in a spirited and professional performance punctuated by its two biggest jams to date, "Crack The Whip" and "Oh Mandy." After seeing the mandolin get strapped on and put through its paces we couldn't help but be nagged by a question we presume must similarly nag Spinto Band. After you've written one of the decade's few true towering pop achievements, the perky band's aforementioned and undeniable thriller "Oh Mandy," how do you do it again? Our posse last night decided that one of the band's key assets for its live performance is rock foot (alas, we were so blown away by rock foot, we only captured the ensuing partial rock foot linked).
Perhaps the act will take inspiration from last night's hotly tipped top-liners, Cardiff, Wales' twee sensations Los Campesinos! The ensemble's arsenal of singles and the recently issued Sticking Fingers Into Sockets EP provided ample fodder for a set abounding with hits. The crowd happily sang along to "The International TweeXcore Underground," "You Throw Parties, We Throw Knives," the Pavement classic "Frontwards," "You! Me! Dancing!" and on and on and on. Interestingly, seeing Los Campesinos! arrayed across the parcemium triggered a memory of a performance by the since-forgotten '90s Montreal indie pop phenoms Pest 5000. The latter act's record Interabang (?!), released on Derivative in 1996, should provide a pleasant listen to Los Campesinos! fans who seek it out. Here's the excellent Pest 5000 track "Too Skinny" to get you started.
Pest 5000 --
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[buy Pest 5000 records from Amazon here]
Selected Prior Johnny Foreigner coverage:
Today's Hotness: Johnny Foreigner, Lilys, Dirty On Purpose
Johnny Foreigner: The Beginning of The End and Everything
Johnny Foreigner's 13 Point Plan To Destroy Etc. And So On
Various Good Reasons To Write About Johnny Foreigner Yet Again
Clicky Clicky Parade Of MySpace Stars vol. 2