The first question is: Do you like Johnny Borrell? Is he a cheeky troubadour propping up the bar at the Hawley Arms or is he The Ghost of Bono Future? How you answer that question will determine how much you get out of ‘Slipway Fires’.
The ramshackle Libs-esque ragtag tunes of ‘Up All Night’ are gone, replaced by stadium busting epics, bringing to mind U2, REM, Queen and other rock behemoths. There are still a few cheeky pop songs here though – ‘North London Trash’ owes it’s style to Lodger’s ‘I’m Leaving’, whereas ‘Tabloid Lover’ is a stomping Britpop singalong. ‘Burberry Blue Eyes’ follows the same template, whereas much of the rest of the album goes higher and wider down the sonic highway. ‘Wire To Wire’ brings to mind ‘Horse With No Name’ whereas ‘Blood For Wild Blood’ stomps around like the giants of US rock.
There’s no backing down from Borrell, he doesn’t want to be in the biggest band in Camden, he wants to be in the biggest band in the world and from the sound of ‘Slipway Fires’, he’s well on his way. If you still don’t like him? I really don’t think he cares and he’s all the better for it.