The debut album from Coventry’s new young guns-cum-Jam-copyists is the self-assured, polished slice of major label ‘indie’ promised by their previous four singles, all of which – 40 Days & 40 Nights, It’s Not Okay, Away From Here and Had Enough – are present and correct.
Hiding behind the logo of Stiff Records, actuallynow part of Warner Brothers rather than the hugelyinfluential indie label (the real incarnation foldedin 1985), and having supported everyone from The Fratellis to The Manic Street Preachers to fellow Midlanders Kasabian in recent months.
Tom Clarke, Liam Watts and Andy Hopkins have come a long way since being July 2005′s Coventry and Warwickshire Band of the Month but the irony of this is, of course, by now they’re a long way from any danger of wasting their lives in any of the dour, dead-end towns that dominate their lyrics.
And somewhere along the way, the initial appeal oftheir radio-friendly punk has worn off. A quick blaston a single or two was great but in longer form itdoesn’t work quite as well, perhaps because there’smore time to notice that what they’re offering isn’treally any different from any one of a thousand groupswho’ve been listening to Paul Weller andTerry Hall a bit too much recently.
They’vepicked up some tricks along the way, such as theKasabianesque lad rock stomp of Aggro, but it’s alljust picked and lifted from elsewhere.
Also, and perhaps this is just me getting toojaded, but these are mostly depression-era songs for acountry that’s no longer in a depression and theirlyrics and sentiments belong just a little bit toomuch in the bleak, devoid-of-all hope mid-to-late 70sto take seriously in 2007.
There is a danger in labelling them nothing morethan bloody unoriginal Specials copyistshowever, because while they undoubtedly are, at leastthey’re not ashamed to wear their influences on their(record) sleeves, offering up a cover of A Message ToYou Rudy on their website (and on the B-side to AwayFrom Here, although not on the album).
Despite their protestations against their hometown and their desire to escape it, they seem completely incapable of letting go of its influence and musical heritage.
In the end, The Enemy are too much of a lesson in contradictions. Too young, too successful already and too obviously focussed and determined to have experienced for themselves any of the dead-end hopelessness they’re singing about.
Several of their songs, not least It’s Not Okay, are full of great energy and great music, but it’s 30 years out of date to the extent that it sounds more as if they’ve been commissioned to soundtrack a period piece about the 1979 than produce a new album. Teenagers shouldn’t be as obsessed as this with their dads’ record collection. Really, it’s just not right.
Ironically, right at the end, they redeemthemselves with a romantic little pop ditty thatstrays into Colourfield territory, withClarke’s scowling, angry young man tones wrappingthemselves as well as they can around gentler, less confrontational sentiments. It’s the most interesting thing on the album and if they can harness this flexibility a bit more in the future, they might just find themselves lasting the course.