The Enemy - We'll Live And Die In These Towns
The mainstream has embraced this music lest it be caught out again, as it was in 1977, when punk shook it up. Now while this trend towards guitar-based music is to be generally welcomed, not all guitar-based music is going to get the same treatment. Indeed, the mainstream is quite clear it is only going to pick the malleable, safe and potentially lucrative of the "indie" output. Everyone else can go to hell! At the risk of coming across as an awful music-snob, we should not forget that the influence of the mainstream on music is almost always negative, poisonous and dangerous (another generalisation). It stifles creativity, puts marketing ahead of content, produces out any rough edges, no matter how desirable, and generally aims the music towards an appreciation by the lowest common denominator. (You're right, that does sound incredibly music-snobbish). But, before anyone thinks I am off to listen to Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer or No More Twain, of One Flesh: 11 Unequivocal Obsecrations, I am going to stick up for a Major Label Indie outfit - the Enemy.
Now on their fourth or fifth single from the album, a lot of people have, perhaps unfairly, compared the Enemy with the Jam, calling them copyists, rip-offs and other, even less complimentary terms. Yet when you listen to it, the Jam are just one of many influences. Even on the title track, "We'll Live and Die in These Towns", perhaps the most Jam-esque of all, the intro is straight from the Hovis ads. Yet the Coventry-trio has put their own stamp on a style of music which has garnered increasing commercial acceptance over the past couple of years. Young, disillusioned and frustrated, these guys sing of a world of small British towns where the great New Labour dream of 1997 now rings as hollow as the Thatcherite promises of twenty years earlier. The Enemy see the decline of urban British life from the perspective of those who are part of it, and yet bang on the walls to escape. Witness these lines from "This Song" -
"Half the kids that aren't pushing prams/Are pushing pills to boys and girls who are half their age/And the pubs and clubs are full of drunks/They don't remember the day they were born or even their mum or their names."
The Arctic Monkeys may be similar participants, but they have accepted it as an immutable fact and are resigned to living within it. And therein lies the difference between the Enemy and most of their contemporaries. The Enemy are as disaffected and bored as everyone else, but they don't want to be a part of it, and don't accept that they have to.
And yet, none of this would mean a thing were it not for the fact that the Enemy are deliberately aiming their music at the same crowd they criticise. Putting angry lyrics into catchy pop tunes is nothing new - perhaps that is why they are so often compared with the Jam - but it is something which is most definitely needed now. And it is all the more credible coming from three kids who have lived the life and escaped, through the music they now offer us. Their music comes across as a call, a plea for action to others. Just like the punks of 1977, the Enemy beckon you to reject what you have been misled to believe. Whether they can have the same effect on the society they so heartily deride is another question altogether.
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