Johnny Foreigner @ Relentless Garage, Highbury Corner, London

10th October 2009

The worst thing any gig goer can hope to see was standing in our path as the DoesItRock team headed to Highbury Corner for one of the most exciting screwball pop bands around…Underground Engineering Works.

Despite this we arrived eventually after braving the rail replacement services, London Overground and the mean streets of Hackney. It really wasn’t worth getting here this early however as Japanese Voyeurs entertained the early crowds.

Musically this band are quite impressive, heavy and full of riffs and attitude. Problem their singer sounds like a squeaky Janet Street Porter. So screechy it hurts! Alternative? Perhaps, but just too annoying to bear as I sink back into my happy beer land.

Hammersmith’s Tellison should really be bigger than their slot here warrants. A pop ethos,  great catchy tracks with multi vocalist’s and brain tunnelling melodies (plus a guitarist sporting a terrible moustache). Tracks such as Gallery and Disaster! Disaster! Were big crowd favourites as the dancing began in earnest. The large ensemble onstage produced a hard working set full of energy and just good pop songs. Criticism if any falls at the feet of the immediately likable lead singer who could quite easily arrange the musicians roles better. Trying to play lead guitar when singing two vocal parts worked ok, but one feels he’s overloading himself in a very capable set of musicians. Massively enjoyable and one to check out later for sure!

I’ve read a lot about Johnny Foreigners intense and sublime live shows, which is always going to lead to a fall. However they managed to almost live to their billing! All set long the lead guitarist playing some of the most inventive and fuzzed riffs while attempting to sing rapid-fire lyrics. His vocals got muffled a lot of the time and sometimes he’d miss the mic altogether after blasting out more fizzing guitar lines. There lies the problem of being a lead singer/guitarist, musically this isn’t a problem here as he makes one hell of a racket, vocally something is missing. Good thing then for the female backing singer/bassist who kept the band together here tonight. Her superb, poppy and very cutesy vocals were the polar opposite of the lead singers. That doesn’t mean she can’t pull of crazy either, the odd welcome squeal and scream gave that added edge and depth most bands lack.

They played a variety of material from their debut LP as well as tracks from their new album. Seeing as their latest effort was yet to be released led to a static crowd for most of the new material. Despite this new tracks such as Feels Like Summer, and Criminals, were some of the best of the night. They are clearly going along the sing-along route as many a repeated lyric were cast back and forth between band and crowd to the great satisfaction of both parties. Each song was musically on the edge of craziness about to tip into insanity which gives Johnny Foreigner such a great must watch aura.

Track highlights from tonight were Feels Like Summer and its happy clapping sing-along, the electronic funfest of Salt Pepper & Spinderella not omitting the sparklingly great Eyes Wide Terrified. Final track provided a huge jam with the members of Tellison returning to hit drums and play as many instruments in true indie style.

Now despite playing out of their skin for this set I was shocked when they departed the stage after what seemed like a 45 minute set. Now I know they are intense, but 45 minutes! The crowd got restless which I could hardly blame as the lack of respect to their fans declining the chants for them to return to the stage. Feeling slightly dejected everyone turned towards the bar and went for a nightcap before calming down and reliving the high (and short)lights of what was a entertaining little show.

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