(Well, The Quietus did a diamond cutting job, I blogged the offcuts, thought what the hell, put the offcuts back in & here's the original. Down to you how YOU think it should've run [The title refers to my Erykah Badu piece also on the Quietus])
TEN THOUGHTS ABOUT HATE
AND THE ENEMY'S "STREETS IN THE SKY"
I blame Weller for a lot, for that fatal reformulation of 'mod' as not about sharpness but shabbiness, not being about chasing down the hottest black music but about shoring up the deadest white music, the prizing of authenticity and roots as a way of masking the pastuerisation & timid thievery going on. Fuck these tricks, I'm a real mod, a modernist, an English listener to black America, I love blatant thievery, not this due-paying bollocks. These Parka'd Man-U-Scholes-shirt-wearing cocks of the walk are just cocks who can barely walk, so broken and bowed are their gaits by a lifetime's absorption of rock'n'roll lies. OASIS GIVES YOU RICKETS.
Oh, and the next Cov band – or in the case of the Enemy, Kenilworth/Leamington/Ballsall Common band depending on who you believe - to continually cite The Specials as an influence really need to think about what they're missing, about those things that made the Specials great, about how they actually share fuck all with the Specials bar a postcode. The likes of the Enemy and the pack of equally shite-sighted Cov bands who bleat about Two-Tone as if they share its spirit need to shut the fuck up and realise exactly how visionary the Specials were and how much that unique vision eclipses and still renders-irrelevant the undanceable muso-pootling and posturing that seems to now be most Covband's birthright. The Specials, The Orchids, Delia Derbyshire – true avatars of this city of pop. In comparison, The Enemy and their ilk stink way too much of treacle town, of Bedworth like their hero Docherty, or even worse, Nuneaton.
Okay, now those pig-people are off snufflin’up and chowingdown on their own doings here's the review for normal people like me and you, and him and her. The new Enemy album is finally here. There it sits, being shite, in the noonday sun, attracting flies. Cross on over the road my friend, ask the Lord his strength to lend, fer chrissakes don’t disturb it, you know it’ll start smelling worse. There's too much good stuff to spend time whining about the bad stuff yeah? If you do whine, the bad stuff will still happen so why worry? Console yourself it's just the flow of cash from arsehole to arsehole and get back to what you like. Enemy fans are happy, you can hear their grunts of idiot joy from here. And you're not a nazi, you’re happy with them doing their grunting-thing, and occassionally wrestling, so long as they do it over there in those stadiums and indie-clubs and leave you the fuck alone yeah? Everyone's happy here. Everyone’s happy.
Except I'm fucking not. Evil will prevail if good folk do nothing, and if all the good folk are otherwise engaged simply bathing in the milky plenitude of their own good taste, documents that seal the horror of the age like 'Streets In the Sky' will simply be allowed to slip out there, venture into young minds unchallenged, perform their moves of atrophy and enfeeblement and be passed like a virus of pisspoorness to more and more people convinced this is as good as rock can get, that this is actually music and not the second-guesswork committee-thinking pretend-pop that it is.
Even I'd leave 'em to it if they weren't such hypocritical little fuckers. A few months ago Tom Clarke, the bog-ugly gobshite who fronts these clowns sneered: 'radio and music in general is fucking appalling at the moment. Why is nobody brave enough to make a great album? A record that can define a time? That can say what we're all thinking? Seriously?". Seriously. He said that. In comparison to the Enemy, Rebecca Black, Double Take, Cascada, people singing Bruno Mars songs into their webcams are living models of integrity (and are at least making music you can at eat food whilst listening to without upchucking yr innards). Whenever I hear Clarke quacking out his nonsense my mind goes back, back . . . . a few years back when I used to DJ the side-room in the Colly. I remember when the Enemy were called 'Bridges' and played mainly a stunningly competent, utterly tedious set of Mod covers, unnecessary blooze-gippage and generally nauseating muso-wank to easily impressed fellow-twats, (the kind of soulless appreciators-of-technique who go to gigs to see zzzz great musicianship & zzzz tightness). They seemed to play every other week, but that could just be my mind playing tricks with exactly how interminable their pap seemed to be – what was clear to anyone who had a heart was that they were amazingly accomplished for their age, dressed rather cutely like 60s mod cut-outs and were unfailingly & stupefyingly dull. One summer, they disappeared. Came back as the Enemy, cleaned up and made as sellable as possible by Warner Bros with a shitload of stupid money, a few indie-friendly haircuts, a few hundred squids worth of sports-casual wear, and given songs they never wrote (all the hits from that first album were by appalling Brummie songwriter Alex Metcalfe) that would make them stars. The Enemy, from the start have been a total confection of grittiness, of realness, of street-level nous, and they'd have safely passed under my radar if they hadn’t consistently used their Coventry ‘roots’ (although Clarke, as you can tell by his rat-boy face, is a Brummie thru and thru) as some kind of earthy basis for their half-arsed lash-together of tedious pub-rock riffola and gnarly smalltown frustration.
Coventry City Council (or rather the private company CV1 that now run our town centre) were daft enough, once the Enemy had hit big, to plaster our ring-road (I pray the title of this new album is unconnected) with Clarke's monstrously-hootered phizog. As if us Coventrians should be proud that The Enemy have taken their lies worldwide. As if we wanted to greet each grey morn seeing this misshapen goon on our way to work, and potentially before we'd even eaten breakfast. Inevitably, it took about a day before a massive spunk-spurting cock was spray-painted onto his spotty forehead – a move seemingly un-noticed by CV1 – and that’s provided a genuinely warm-fuzzy feel of civic pride every time I’ve driven past it since. Until yesterday they were set to play Cov Cathedral's ruins in a couple of weeks (Health & Safety have kiboshed it ‘pparently and suspicions about sluggish ticket-sales are utterly unfounded honest guv), a fact that offended me on all kinds of levels, none of them religious. Cos, sheesh, if you want the true sound of Cov, drive the ring-road & tune into HillzFM, hear loony Nigerian church services, shitloads of drum'n'bass n dubstep n reggae and the odd bit of Ukrainian/Polish/Italian and Irish music, hear the WHOLE of Cov, not just the particularly rancid corners of whiteboy-schmindie that still persist. If you wanna hear bands seek the mentalist monster-rock melange of The Resurrection Men, Tailor & The Crow's palsied medieval folk, Invitation To Love's diseased disco pop or Absent Friends' crush on Steve Shelley & Eno. They’re what this city sounds like to me, not the utterly unmiscegenated lukewarm bleached blandness and banality that 'Streets In The Sky' summates so effectively. The Enemy shouldn't be fooled that any homecoming triumphs mean the whole city's proud of em. Most of us want their shit kept up the Ricoh where it belongs with the other muppets that deserve relegation. On the Enemy’s FB-page they talk about things ‘going-off Wood End style’: for anyone who actually lives in and knows Coventry, these blatantly misinformed attempts to tie themselves in with some perception of Coventry ruffneckness are just plain embarrassing, suggest that they’ve never actually been out n about in the city. If they were, if they listened, they’d realise that most of us are ASHAMED the Enemy come from Coventry, skirt over it in polite conversation with a slight wrinkle of the nose, wonder if Clarke is living proof of the theory that your voice suits your face, suspect that this is why The Enemy are, in a very real sense, unlistenable. On behalf of Coventry’s good kindly normally abnormal people, I cast thee Enemy OUT. Excommunicated to Bubbenhall. No, that’s too cruel. Let’s make it Meriden.
They've never sounded better. Seriously. The Bronx's Joby Ford has found them a big blustery wide thump to inhabit, a state-of-the-art faux-rawness that sounds like the Foo Fighters at their most lucrative, QUOTSA at their crossover-worse, Biffy Clyro at their most insufferably Biffy Clyro. The fact The Enemy have populated this surefire money-making template with songs so laughably under-developed, half-arsed and unconvincing almost makes you pity the tow-headed little pricks – opener 'Gimme The Sign' pitches the usual utterly predictable sub-Oasis rawk-plod against lyrics so knuckle-bitingly bad (“He's walking like a penguin/All zipped up tight/ He's acting like he's Tupac/But he's never even seen a gun”) you wonder how he's gonna top it on the rest of the album (don't worry, he does, repeatedly). “Bigger Cages (Longer Chains)” is so proud of its semi-literate, half-witted lyrics you start cracking your fingers and hear just how much they've actually LOST since they were Bridges. The fills taking lumpen to some new entirely graceless new level of lumpeness, the grinding guitars beneath pitifully polite, everything with an eye on the big stage and therefore utterly uninvolving as listening experience. ‘Streets In The Sky’ straight away reveals itself as an album designed simply to 'get you ready' for the tour, the true money maker, the only chance these charmless chumps might get of securing the short-term future earnings they're in this for. It’s stadium-rock sure, but it permanently puts you in row-Z, squinting to see what the fuss is about, looking at the price on your ticket and wondering what in the name of all that is holy you were thinking of. Clap your hands. Sing along. It won’t fill the growing void ‘Streets In The Sky’ puts inside you, or allay those dyspeptic retches bringing tears to your eyes. But it might make you forget you shelled out for this shite. I envy you the disposability of your income.
The single “Saturday” follows through like a worryingly moist bottom-brap. (“Frosty milkman in the morning/Desperate breakfast in a boring town”. Desperate breakfast? What, really? Surely ‘forlorn fry-up’ or ‘Wearisome Wheetabix’ would’ve scanned better, n’est ce pas?) and you finally realise, The Enemy aren't actually making music anymore, if they ever did. They're arranging sound in ways to make money from people who have bought previous arrangements of sound they've been responsible for. The only thing going on 'creatively' behind 'Streets In The Sky' is an attempt simply to remind us that this brand The Enemy, exists, are on sale, have a new barcode ready for a new season. Of course, all bands do this, but the good ones manage to mask it - throughout ‘Streets In The Sky’ the Enemy prove themselves not canny enough lyrically, or interesting enough musically, to distract you from the mediocre marketing their music embodies. 'Saturday', with it's punchably weak chorus and strange outlandish ideas about Feeder somehow being the zenith of Britrock intensity, isn't really a song. It has no life, only craft - the linear organisation of carefully considered tweakings of The Enemy's entirely un-unique selling points. It comes across not as something you want to listen to again, merely a montage of Enemy-like moments, an advert, the chosen chunk of Enemy bizness whose video they hope will get play listed and be out there barking for the cause (good luck with that guys, last time I checked it’s not really working is it?). That’s not just my cynicism – sometimes music can be so empty of rub, bereft of substance, the nakedness of its entirely commercial ambition is all that comes across. In their attempt to avoid artifice, be solid, a band, The Enemy actually emerge as way more two-dimensional than all that ‘rubbish chart music’ they and their fans so snottily deride. The Enemy crave depth, have none, and unfortunately don't have the looks to get away with being so superficial.
So the love of disciples is surely all that is in the Enemy's future, ‘Streets In The Sky’ will make no new converts. Because even when they try and write a pop-song, they come out with what they always come out with - stodgy waddling rock songs of quite staggering insipidity, rock that’s been mushed up to the consistency of gruel. When they go soft on the Roxette-esque ‘Like a Dancer’ & Travis-lite ‘Two Kids’ it’s actually a blessed relief from the gurning sweatiness that surrounds it, like a squirt of Oust into a festival latrine. Overwhelmingly though, the ‘freshness’ and ‘rawness’ The Enemy have been mooting about this record (rather hilariously, they’ve been moaning that their 2nd album was ‘too political’) rapidly becomes a horrific variety of platinum-punk indecision, sound somewhere gullet-ticklingly between Stereophonics and Starsailor on the truly gross “Turn It On’ and ‘This Is Real’, lumpenly undanceable on the none-more-unfunky ‘Get Up & Dance’. Turn and tilt your head for a moment whilst the Enemy are playing and a splat of something revolting falls out of your ear, apologises, squirms away and out the door squeaking. This is what happens when you reheat vomit, when the coprophage feeds from the coprophage. Speaking of which . . .
I blame the Gallaghers for even more. For starting that idea that facsimile of finer moments by finer bands can be enough so long as you seal it with 'attitude', with frontmen willing to spout utterly conservative viewpoints, reassuring-enough viewpoints about how shit chart-music is, how hip-hop doesn’t belong at festivals, to never alienate their audience, delivered arrogantly enough to be called 'outspoken'. Beyond Green Day's necrophilia, beyond Radiohead's spawning of a generation of corduroy choirboys, Oasis have been the most damaging band in the last two decades of British pop. Fuck 'em and their fans, and the bands those fans formed, forever.
As 'Streets In The Sky' malodourously unfolds towards its expiration you actually start feeling a little bit sorry for ‘em. A little bit. Pity the Enemy, so young, and yet so soon confronting the limits of their dunderheaded imaginations. Warner Bros have pulled out now, and this ‘comeback’ record is make or break, but from the off, bands like the Enemy made a fatal mistake, have a fundamental misunderstanding of what music is, what makes music great. (Un)Truth outs eventually and this generation of lad-rock wannabes all have fatal flaws that stem directly from the Gallaghers, the evil they’ve perpetuated, this sham masquerade at the heart of lad-rock’s motivation. Music is all muscle-memory to them – the idea that if you do this to a guitar, if you do this to a bass, if you do this to a drum kit, all these things you’ve seen others do, what will come out will be ‘great’ ‘proper’ music. What they miss, unsurprisingly since their God Noel was a roadie and unlike Lemmy shoulda fkn stayed one, is that music really isn't merely about what you play, or 'ability' or 'passion'. Arse about tit, The Enemy learned how to play ages ago, as Bridges, as pure facsimile, then were forced to think about whether they had anything to say, came up empty and have been vaguely getting away with that emptiness ever since thanks to the massive critical sleepiness of the mainstream media and the similarly-hollow manoeuvres of their peers and heroes. The pop industry, like the football industry, knows that if it blithely spews venal lying rot about understanding fans ‘intensity’ and ‘love of music’ they’ll be able to exploit that obsessiveness in ever-more profitable ways – similarly the Enemy have the business-plan worked out like a motherfucker but nothing else, and so it all starts getting unpicked, falling apart, exposed. That’s why ‘Streets In The Sky’, no matter what efforts have been put in, arrives so half-arsed into your day, so rushed, so incomplete and dissatisfying. Kids, especially when they hear exactly how lame and pedestrian and hidebound the likes of ‘1-2-3-4’ and ‘It’s A Race’ are, will call this shit out eventually and drop kick these fuckers off the map. Like I say, a little bit of pity, but not much. Not much at all when these mediocre fucks are taking time away from the bands who can truly save guitar pop, bands who speak to my Cov-bredren way more than these strength-in-depth use-the-width-of-the-park shitheads. (They're from Finland and called Cats On Fire btw and the fucking fightback starts here.)
So, as 'Make A Man' closes the album out in a beige blizzard of ersatz punky-spunky piffle (“Make a man/If You Can/Of This Boy/In Your Hands” – errm . . . thanks but no thanks and where’s the fkn Swarfega?) it's quotes time. Quotes for the posters? “A blazing return to form”. Yup 'Streets In The Sky' certainly slips neatly and melts beautifully into the big bowl of mouldywank the Enemy have already given us. A little spikier p’raps (there's moments here that rock as hard as Kym Wilde & Billy Idol no shit) but that’s just all the better to snag your ‘phagus on the way back up. “The best sounding album they've ever made?” - yeah, I'd go for that, the sound of 'Streets In The Sky' is perhaps the least-objectionable thing about it, even if it's a sound attached to songs so dreary they're like the distilled essence of Adrian Child's voice made into bars and guitar-tabs, your time escaping forever down the blackhole of its tedium. Quotes for you lot? No, you don't want this in your house, try and avoid all media that might accidentally block this sonic turd up the u-bend of your day. One last quote for the posters: “AS GOOD AS IT GETS: MAKES YOU PROUD TO BE BRITISH: QUALITY. CLASS. TOP. MINT. LEGENDS. GOOD LUCK TO ‘EM” before a quote for the Enemy themselves. Rot in bargain bins forever you twats. Although I have a horrible feeling it won’t be, I pray and fervently hope this record is your last.
You’ll find me in Coventry if you want to take this up with me. Have you ever been?