Slipway Fires

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Slipway Fires is Razorlight's most mainstream release to date, an album that downplays the band's garage-rock past for something akin to Snow Patrol's adult-approved pop. Theatrical harmonies and hooks demonstrate the band's growth -- they're no longer ripping off the Strokes, having left the swaggering sounds of Up All Night far behind -- but growth is the very problem with Slipway Fires, whose mature, polished tones might as well have been recorded by middle-aged AOR vets rather than Clash-loving twentysomethings. This is an album of earnest piano ballads and well-scrubbed rock, an album that sports song titles like "North London Trash" but sounds as dirty as early-'80s Fleetwood Mac. At times, the earnest posturing gives way to something like "Tabloid Lover," a fun, shamelessly trashy romp that takes its cues from the Bangles. Another highlight, "Burberry Blue Eyes," calls to mind the Feeling's bouncy power pop, but while such a song would sound appropriate on the Feeling's next release, it's hard to reconcile the fact that Razorlight -- a band that previously sang about bar-filled evenings and hung-over mornings -- have now traded in their street-smart denim for songs about luxury clothing chains. Enjoying Slipway Fires requires a suspension of disbelief, a conscious separation between the band's past and the (somewhat ludicrous) present. Of course, not looking at the outlandishly serious cover art -- in which frontman Johnny Borrell attacks the camera with a smoldering glare, an unbuttoned dress shirt, and a seemingly un-ironic pearl necklace -- may also help.

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