Foreigner? Nein danke mate … it’s all limpAORiwannaknowwhatloveisradiopap, innit? I’m far too cool what with all my metal and punk and hardcore and achingly esoteric 90’s trip-hoppolloza.
Or so I thought.
Last year I bought a copy of Foreigner mostly because I couldn’t see anything else in the shop I wanted to buy more and because I really like ‘Cold As Ice’. Oh and I have a bit of a thing for LPs with really crap pictures of trains on the sleeve*. True story.
So I played it a couple of times, liked the hits and then thought nothing of it until I fished it out again about a month ago. Foreigner has been pretty much glued to my turntable since then. I have to play it almost every day, twice today even. Maybe I’m now a limpAORiwannaknowwhatloveisradiopap fan?
Right from the opening bars of ‘Feels Like The First Time’ Foreigner hits home. Never mind feeling like the first time, there is something so well-crafted and honed about these tracks that hearing them is like accessing some dimly-held ancestral memory; you never hear these songs for the first time, they’re already in there!
As an opening salvo ‘… First Time’ and ‘Cold As Ice’ really pack a wallop. What strikes me now are the Bad Company meets Beatles-isms of them both, the piano on the latter is particularly great. Music this good simply bypasses all your feeble cool defences and just storms the citadel of your heart, pitchfork in hand. And rightly so, this is music designed to make you turn your radio up.
Next up is the brilliant comedy track ‘Starrider’, where the band send up gormless goofy 70’s pretensions with a faultlessly deadpan take on every bit of cosmic rock nonsense possible. All synths, hilarious lyrics, multi-tracking and straining for meaningful. Hilarious stuff. Oh … serious? you sure? … oh. Oops, it’s okay nobody actually reads any of this anyway.
Mick Jones gets to play it faux tough on ‘Headknocker’ and it doesn’t really suit, despite some (intentionally) amusing lyrics, the whole thing sounds like a Bad Company B-side/demo version/rough mix/riff origins tape. I rather like the overblown wimpiness of ‘The Damage Is Done’ despite myself.
Monday, sad, sad Monday
She’s waiting for me
But I’m a long, long way from homeLong, Long Way From Home
Never mind all that, just clear the decks for Foreigner (the LP and the band) best ever moment: ‘Long, Long Way From Home’. Yeah, boy! I am utterly obsessed with this track. Everything about it is just spot on for me, the length of it (2:53) is perfect; Gramm, on his best vocal performance, has never sounded so great mixing rock and street tough R&B just right; the fact that beneath Mick Jones’ well-mannered guitar churn lurks a solid horn section; great me-and-you-against-the-world-babe lyrics; Ian McDonald plays an absolute blinder on this one too**. I have to crank this at least six times every time I hear it.
… which makes the sub-Wings flatulence of ‘Woman Oh Woman’ even harder to take. The less said about that the better. Okay so it is immaculately-crafted tosh, but tosh nonetheless.
Still, it tees up ‘At War With The World’ brilliantly, with its’ not-quite-as-clever-as-they-think-they-are lyrics and hard rocking swagger. I really like this one, even the incongruous synth solo in the middle enhances rather than trashes it. Some particularly neat vocal harmonising and guitaring throughout. This was an unexpected treat.
Foreigner ends well too, the quite beautifully designed no-sharp-edges ‘Fool For You Anyway’ and the rawer ‘I Need You’ close things out nicely, the latter again letting Mick Jones exercise his fingers to the max.
I understand why Foreigner has really grabbed my attention and it isn’t totally about the singles either, or even about the high levels of musicianship involved. What really strikes me here is just what a brilliantly listenable LP this is, even the few tracks I’m not very keen on just blend beautifully with the rest. It’s that classic sports cliché about a team being better than the sum of its parts and a bit of a lost musical art too, making an album that has no real agenda other than to sound great. there should be more of this sort of thing.
Oh and that really is an undisputed all-time hall of fameTop 10 crap back cover.
PS: This post was going to be finished on Monday, hence the title, ah well. Life.
*genuinely, I swear on my gerbil’s life that I am not just frantically casting around here trying to retroactively justify a purchase. No sirree.
**the man providing the often sought link between Foreigner and King Crimson. Yowza!