Looking back, The Enemy’s debut album seems weirdly prescient. Its centrepiece, ‘You’re Not Alone’, was dedicated to those cast out of work by the closure of the city’s Peugeot factory. The title track ‘We’ll Live And Die In These Towns’ painted a picture of irreversible urban decay. Its central theme was that modern life is rubbish, and there is no escape.
Post banking crisis, those preoccupations – industrial decline, unemployment, helplessness in the face of grim economic reality – are far more urgent than they were back in summer 2007. The problem is, the band themselves did escape. They had a Number One album, toured the world, made a stack of cash.
Which poses a dilemma for album two: do they maintain their social conscience, address these troubled times? Or do they go the Oasis route, ramp up their success, chase The Big Music, inflate their sound to stadium levels?
As you might have guessed from the grandiose title – ‘Music For The People’ being, as we pointed out the other week, one of those titles that bands only go for when they’re already pumped-up with sky-high self-confidence – they’ve mostly opted for the latter.
The Enemy, ‘Music For The People’ sleeve
Everything about this album, for better or worse, suggests a band desperate to move up to the next level, scale and popularity-wise. It’s nothing if not ambitious. Ahead of its release on 27 April, here’s our first-listen, track-by-track response.
A symphonic intro (of course) gives way to a hard-riffing, glam-tinged stomp, reminiscent of Kasabian’s ‘Empire’, The Stone Roses’ ‘Love Spreads’, Embrace’s ‘One Big Family’ – basically any song where lad-rock hits the big red button marked ‘epic’.
No Time For Tears
The first single, out 14 April. Features an unusually high vocal from Tom Clarke, roughened up by studio distortion. The production is glossy and spacious, a long way from the snarling, tightly-wound sound of the first album. The line “We gotta get out of the city” aligns it with ‘Away From Here’ – only here we get a passage of open-throated female gospel wailing that recalls Pink Floyd’s ‘The Great Gig In The Sky’. Covered by Slade.
If the first album aped early Jam, this track seems closer to the more lush and soulful late-period of ‘Beat Surrender’. There are also shades of ‘Rock The Casbah’, with its plinky piano riff. Like every song so far, this boats a simplistic, staccato chorus that you can imagine being accompanied by pumping fists and much excitable hurling around of booze in the moshpit.
Sing When You’re In Love
Lyrics that find romance in urban squalor (“the concrete jungle that echoes your name”) potentially make it this album’s ‘We’ll Live And Die In These Towns’ – although it’s in a major-key, with a three-chord sequence strangely reminiscent of Blondie’s cover of The Paragons’ ‘The Tide Is High’. Seems a little cheesy on first listen, has to be said. Possible radio hit?
Not a Jeff Buckley cover thank God, rather a string-soaked slowie that pinches the “just let them go” hook of Blur’s ‘The Universal’. Generally suggestive of that late-Britpop moment when every indie band drowned their songs in orchestral syrup.
Nation Of Checkout Girls
The Britpop theme continues – this one sounds exactly like ‘Common People’, at least in the verses. “We’re the generation that do what we’re told by the corporations”. They haven’t entirely lost their desire to Tell It Like It Is, then.
Don’t Break The Red Tape
“Try and stop us, try and stop us, try and stop us…” A ‘London Calling’-aping verse builds to another jagged, ruthlessly efficient chorus. Another song guaranteed to spark mosphpit ‘aggro’.
Boasts an intriguing lyric (“No-one ever gives you anything for free/Unless you’re willing to sleep with the BBC”) and a gleaming pearl of a chorus, augmented by a subtle, single-note piano part. The strongest track so far.
A woozy waltz accented by spiralling strings. Lyrically, though, we’re on familiar Enemy territory, this being a tale of a down-at-heel ordinary joe hacking away at the coalface of urban tedium and indifference.
An 11-minute slab of sunny, ‘Mr Blue Sky’-style psychedelia, this is crying out for a video in which Blue Meanies chase each other down rabbit-holes, or something. Cuts out suddenly after four minutes… but then it starts back up, having mutated into a ‘Let It Be’-esque gospel piano ballad. Crafty.