By The Enemy
Looking at the tracklisting for The Enemy's sophomore album - the band who were the new Jam-esque anti-establishment voice of the youth in 2007 - it's hard to wonder if they haven't gone a bit soft.
'Away From Here' has become 'No Time For Tears,' 'We'll Live and Die In These Towns' has become 'Last Goodbye.' Surely, a band famed for its razor-sharp analysis of modern Britain hasn't come up with a selection aimed to woo the hearts of young maidens the length and breadth of the country? Fortunately, the titles don't tell the full story.
Instrumental opener 'The Elephant Song' seems to have been so named as, at one point, the guitars sound a bit like an elephant trumpeting. A poor title matched only by that of the album itself.
From here though, the band move back into more familiar, no-nonsense territory. Single 'No Time For Tears' has a glam-rocker edge and a vocal performance that demands attention. Against what the name may suggest, the song is overtly political and is very much Tom Clarke territory lyrically.
'Sing When You're In Love' made a huge impact on the recent live tour and was a song that raised hopes for this record. However, the recorded version falls a little short of the in-your-face aggression that Tom Clarke is able to give the song on stage.
Away from the rock ballads, there are signs of 'You'll Live and Die In These Towns' here. 'Don't Break The Red Tape,' with its talk of Thatcherism and the government is the most anti-establishment track on the album and is a reminder of what made The Enemy stand out amongst a sea of political apathy found in the youth of today.
Equally, 'Nation of Checkout Girls' and 'Be Somebody' are observational songs that leave no room for imagination as to the subject matter, and the characters that are drawn up are disturbingly familiar reflections of people everyone knows. Despite being the more typical The Enemy songs carried over from the previous album, these are far from the stand out tracks. Instead the new style that comes through on particular songs provides the most interesting listening on this outing.
If Weller was one of the more obvious influences on Clarke as a performer on the band's debut, then Rod Stewart springs to mind here, particularly on acoustic numbers 'My My Hey Hey' and 'Last Goodbye.' These more downbeat, inward-looking songs are a departure from the usual bombast of The Enemy, but they're carried off well.
Instead, the most intriguing track is 'Silver Spoon/Goodnight Ladies and Gentlemen.' This is a classic slice of psychedelia taken straight from Sgt. Pepper, complete with heavily reverbed vocals, heavy rock riff leading over a driving, moderately-paced rhythm section.
Mid-song, this changes to a McCartney-style piano-led ballad. It's absolutely fantastic.
It's a "difficult second album" that is certainly full of surprises.The titles don't bode well, but the tunes speak for a band that wants to move on, slowly but surely developing from the working-class struggle imagery that was the core of the formation of the trio and the debut album. The glamour of rock n roll success has often hindered groups who have early success as a lad-rock band but find it hard to relate back to this when fame and wealth has come their way.
The Enemy have approached this is a clever way. They still sing about X-Factor wannabees and the ridiculousness of the nanny state, but they've introduced a more experimental side, with an emphasis on new influences that we never realised were there on the relatively one-dimensional 'We'll Live and Die...'. Not a complete departure from Coventry's finest, but a step on the path of a band in development.