Razorlight are back. After a long period as what could – though perhaps we’re being cruel – be described as the Johnny Borrell show, the London-meets-Sweden glory days line up returned in 2021. Early this year, the band launched a first new single since their 2018 record ‘Olympus Sleeping’, an album which in itself came after a stop-start hiatus, and a break from recording that dated back to 2008’s ‘Slipway Fires’.
Their fast-rising band history is something to behold, and features a heap of odd moments: Borrell’s own label mocking his solo record for selling only a few hundred copies in its first week; NME nominating Razorlight as ‘best new band’ and then ‘worst band’ only two years apart; a plucky little garage rock outfit at the heart of it all, producing hit after melodic hit.
New single ‘Call Me Junior’ feels like the Razorlight of old. It’s steeped in nostalgia, not least in the video, which features clips from an old tour of the US, but also in its sound: the new track has that jagged, melodic urgency and pace-changing guitar that always defined the backdrop to Borrell’s distinctive vocal. In fact, it could only be Razorlight.
The band for now are learning to be together again. Drummer Andy Burrows – later a member of We Are Scientists – had a fall out with Borrell and they didn’t speak for many years. Their reunion has been filmed for a documentary, its release date yet to be determined. When we speak to Bjorn Ågren, the founding guitarist, who returned from his own work with Lucy Rose to rejoin Razorlight in 2019, he insists the band are now in the best place they’ve been for some time. This is Razorlight’s essence: a return to their purest form.
There’s a new album on the way, though it will be preceded by a series of singles and, most likely, that documentary. Above all, though, Razorlight are enjoying being a band again, and their expectations are not all that high. Primarily, they’re just hoping to enjoy making music, and in hindsight, the whole experience of those flying early years, when ‘Up All Night’ and its self-titled follow up went, between them, nine times platinum, are all in the past.
“It seems to me that it was a very, very strange decade,” Ågren laughs. “It was indie chart music, which is a complete oxymoron. When indie turned up in the 80s, it was music for weird kids up in their bedrooms with no mates. It was before the internet so you can’t find other weirdos on Instagram or whatever. You used to think you were alone, and then you heard this song, and this guy called Robert Smith understood exactly what you felt.”
“It was never meant for the charts, that was the whole thing. It was meant to say to the popular kids, ‘this is not for you, you can have the radio’. And then that ended up being the kind of music that everyone listens to. The most popular game became guitar hero. It was this weird thing where being in a band was the coolest thing in all of culture. It was a world before Me Too, and before mental health really being a thing, especially for men.”