The Enemy: Leadmill, Sheffield, Wednesday June 13

Fighting, fucking and sticking it to the wage slaves, The Enemy reveal their teenage dreams… and their inner cock-rock

Fighting and fucking: the primeval ore of humanity. Those two things are why the monkeys learned to smash in the skulls of rival alpha males with bison bones. They’re why Troy fell and why centuries of religious conflicts have killed millions. And they’re the reason we neck 20 shots and cop off with Day-Glo divots while headbutting our own reflection at KOKO every Friday night. Conflagration and copulation: the grist and gristle of life, love and – oh yes – rock’n’roll.

The Enemy understand this, marching onstage with black cagoules firmly zipped and blacker scowls grimly set, looking for all the world like snivelling Cov street rats out to happy-slap the plastic hips off passing grannies to melt down and snort. Snarls a-quiver, they pick up guitars and blast into ‘40 Days And 40 Nights’ like the horny cock-rock titans they’re clearly not (just yet); Tom Clarke chewing thickly at lines about having “one too many girlfriends” and giving himself a knowing inward wink while singing “Someone told me she’s sleeping with the enemy/Oh well oh well…” Sexy of lyric, violent of sound; instantly The Enemy hit the primal rock’n’roll mother lode.

Anyone confused as to how three snotty teenage estate kids from the Midlands have conquered the hearts, minds and undergarments of the nation inside three months need only watch them play their meaty, mighty racket. See, The Enemy have grasped the fundamentals of rock – the sneer, the stance, the pucker and the punch. Drummer Liam is an indie munchkin who believes he’s playing in Mötley Crüe. Bassist Andy is a skinny beanpole playing host to the spirit of Nick Oliveri. And Tom Clarke is the jag of ’70s Weller, the jitter of ’80s Jim Reid, the swagger of ’90s Liam and the looks of ’00s, um, Him From The Music. Together they play furious songs of rumpo and ruckus – ‘Dancing All Night’ is The Killers on Viagra, ‘Banging On The Backseat’ is the best song The Clash never wrote about dogging and ‘Aggro’ is The Twang necking pills laced with bad crack. And all of it is whacked out at 10,000mph at the volume of a space shuttle launch. How can that not be rock’n’roll at its lughole-shredding best? Sheesh, you do the math.

But how can it be true too, right? The snipers somehow manage to see past ‘Away From Here’’s monumental pop chorus (a chorus that tribal hunter-gatherers deep in the Amazonian jungle are chanting as I write) to pick at the lyrics. An 18-year-old guitarist who’s presumably never done a decent day’s graft in his life singing about being “Sick, sick, sick and tired/Of working just to be retired”? Must’ve been written by some 40-something svengali who used to be in Right Said Fred, right? Bollocks! There’s nothing more ‘wannabe rock star’ than the timeless sentiment “I want to wake up in the afternoon/With daytime TV and my favourite tune/Because it is much easier for me/To stay at home with Richard & Judy” and dreams of escaping wage slave mundanity are as teenage as bad skin and chlamydia. Anyway, tonight The Enemy display a musical nous and knowledge

far beyond their years: new single and NME’s Track Of The Week ‘Had Enough’ alone crams in new wave jerks, Keith Moon drum fills, glam chanting and Slash riff rampages to end up sounding like Guns’N’Roses doing ‘Eton Rifles’ with Slade. Indeed, from all the stonking power chords and arena hooks thundering out as Andy drops his bass and dives screaming into the moshpit during a firebrand ‘It’s Not OK’ you suspect that The Enemy secretly grew up wanting to be Whitesnake.

And that Tom Clarke is, secretly, something of a people’s poet. For the encore we find him hammering out a plaintive update of The Jam’s ‘That’s Entertainment’, which they’ve decided to call ‘We’ll Live And Die In These Towns’, awash with TV dinners, cold baths, rainy car parks and the cry of “We’ll live and die in these towns/Don’t let it drag you down”. ‘You’re Not Alone’ strips The Enemy’s bravado bare; suddenly they’re Ghost Town dreamers reaching out to the lost and hopeless: “There’s just too many dreams in this wasteland for you to leave us all behind/You’re not alone” – a glimmer, perhaps, of the steps they’ve taken since “A-wey-o-wey-o! Oh-oh! Away from here”.They come out fighting and fucking; they head off 45 minutes later with our hearts in their hoodie pockets. Give it two more months and the whole nation will be sleeping and slugging with The Enemy.

Mark Beaumont