At a time when seeds of melodramatic, racial intolerance are being sown around the Western World, and with a war looming that only the thoroughly naïve would suggest is just related to “weapons of mass destruction”, it is appropriate that Britain’s premier, politically-charged musical polemicists, Asian Dub Foundation, should choose to return to the fray.
Expertly produced by On-U Sound‘s Adrian Sherwood, ADF’s fourth album, Enemy Of The Enemy, is a musical and lyrical microcosm of how a 21st century nation should be – culturally diverse, yet with a strong identity, articulate and ready to make a stand where necessary.
Unsurprisingly, Enemy Of The Enemy spans many musical bridges. There are orthodox rap tracks, such as Blowback and 2 Face, which are more than good enough to knock the smirk from Eminem‘s face. 19 Rebellions, a true tale of inhumane conditions in Brazilian prisons and organised uprisings by prisoners, features spoken Portuguese and has a suitably South American feel. There are mainly instrumental tracks such as Basta, Cyberabad and the mind-twisting, electro-bhangra of Dhol Rinse. Meanwhile, Rise To The Challenge and La Haine are simultaneously jaunty and intense and boast some cool guitar licks courtesy of Radiohead‘s Ed O’Brien. And, of course, there is the current single Fortress Europe, which seems to contain all of the above.
The stand-out song, however, has to be 1000 Mirrors, a beautiful, trip-hop tune with the genius move of having Sinead O’Connor on vocals. If this does not get released as a single and then get the radio airplay to push into the Top 10 then somebody somewhere needs to be given their P45 early…
Lyrically, Enemy Of The Enemy is a hotbed of social and political statements. However, where ADF once hammered home their points, these days they seem content to be more like seasoned observers. Thus, Blowback and the title track are warnings that selling arms to the likes of the Taleban and Saddam Hussein is bound to end in tears, as well as pointed criticism of Western hypocrisy: “The enemy of the enemy… He’s the friend, until he’s the enemy again.” Fortress Europe is a statement on asylum-seekers and immigration (the clue’s in the title!), while 2 Face is a humorous tirade against someone with the fantastic put-down line: “Two-faced people die twice, no lie.”
At the risk of being churlish, it would have been nice to hear some all-out rocking from ADF on this album, a la Free Satpal Ram, not for the sake of it, but only because ADF are actually so good at venting their rage in those musical surroundings. But this is a fairly minor quibble and one can only hope that Enemy Of The Enemy restores ADF to the kind of public profile they had after Rafi’s Revenge was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 1998.