I’d love to know if Jonny Borrell would do anything differently. Here's a man whose band Razorlight made one of the most banger-packed indie albums of the 00s in Up All Night, then conquererd the world with its follow-up. He’s produced a curious and sporadically brilliant debut solo album that’s more famous for its terrible first-week sales (491) than anything else, and now released an album with new band Zazou that's a natty waltz of jazz, folk, tango and rock.
By any measurements that’s a rich and varied career, peaks and troughs. And yet talk to anyone, literally anyone, about Jonny Borrell and conversation will fall back on those old tropes: the famous early interview with NME where he appeared to compare Bob Dylan’s songwriting ability unfavorably with his own, or his penchant for headlining festivals with his top off. Anything but the music.
I’ve been as guilty as anyone at perpetuating the myth of Jonny - largely because Up All Night reminds me of younger foolish days, but also because I've always found him entertaining in a 'Guess what Borrell's done now" way. Maybe it's time to forget all that.
Or, if forgetting is too big an ask, at least give him the chance to weave a new future. Because he and Zazou’s new album The Atlantic Culture is a diverse, deceptively alluring album that could not be further away than something you’ve heard him lend his name to. It’s a record for Sunday afternoons rather than Friday nights- fun, at times mournful (‘We Cannot Overthrow’) and others a bit silly. It’s got a lot of trumpets and while it’s probably not going to change the world, by stealth I reckon I’ve listened to it more than any other album this year.