Review Summary: Not a bad album, but not one that is likely to propel The Enemy into arenas as it attempts.
“Second album syndrome” is a harmful disease within the music industry that has claimed many victims, and continues to do so. It’s effect is particularly evident in the UK indie scene, where countless promising bands have faded into obscurity or broken up after poorly received or selling follow-ups to successful debuts. The View, The Fratellis and The Kooks have all recently suffered from it in some way, and on this evidence, The Enemy look in danger of being it’s latest victims.
The Coventry trio burst onto the scene in 2006, with debut album We’ll Live And Die In These Towns
, which topped the UK charts and spawned no less than seven singles. Their music isn’t overly complicated nor original, but their anthemic songs that revolved around working class themes captured the hearts of many, making them one of the most important bands in the country. Music For The People
, their follow up, is supposed to be the album that sees them making the step up into arenas, and it does immediately strike you as a fiercely ambitious record. Unfortunately, while the album isn’t necessarily bad, it falls short of its target in all too many areas.
It begins reasonably well, with two of the albums better songs. Straight away, opener Elephant Song
displays this ambition, with a huge Led Zeppelin like riff that would indeed sound at home in arenas. Lead single No Time For Tears
is a slower, more melodic number, but continues along the same lines in that it is arena built with a huge sound. While this duo is a successful start, they both highlight some of the albums most basic flaws. Tom Clarke’s vocals are very low in the mix, and unfortunately have nowhere near the same impact as usual. He still bellows his words with passion few can match, but this unfortunately doesn’t translate into the songs. The production is, in fact the albums main problem. Everything is painfully overblown, with strings, guest vocals and other unnecessary extras appearing on many songs that would have been just fine without them. The production is also so polished that many of the songs feel flat, emotionless and overblown, a far cry from the lad rock anthems that were in abundance on their previous effort. In other words, it often seems just too
Overblown is in fact, a word that would be effective in summarizing the whole album. No Time For Tears
is a perfect example of this. Although it is ultimately a good song, it’s simply not as epic as it thinks it is. The multilayered vocals unfortunately remove any raw emotion that would have given the song replay value, and the female guest vocals are totally unnecessary, and don’t make the song any more interesting. Add these problems to the boring beat, and the song just plods along as a radio friendly single that is only saved by its excellent melody. Confirmed second single Sing When You’re In Love
has exactly the same problem. It’s melody and chorus are good (if a little repetitive), but its overblown nature threatens to ruin it, and takes away much of the enjoyment.
Unfortunately, not every song here has a saving feature, making these low points of the album the worst songs of The Enemy’s short career. Third track 51st State
is one of these. Although it isn’t as bloated as the two songs that come before it, there is just nothing about it that can catch and maintain the listener’s interest. Undoubtedly the worst song here is the awful Keep Losing
, a boring, totally uninspired ballad that wouldn’t have even made it as a B-side to one of the bands previous singles. Another ballad, Last Goodbye
is almost as bad. This song does at least have promise, but is ultimately ruined by the overblown (that word again) nature of the production, and Tom Clarkes vocals, which try so hard to be emotional but just end up sounding forced. Much of the talk leading up top the album’s release was about how Music For The People
sees Clarke maturing as a songwriter, and it is true that these slower moments are more considered than anything from their debut. But what is the point in maturing it is for the worse? Surely the band can’t have believed that these boring, insipid numbers were better than the catchy, effective lad-rock (of which there is very little here) that won them so many fans in the first place.
When Clarke isn’t trying to grow up though, it seems he is spending too much of his time borrowing from other artists. Their debut was dismissed by many as a second rate Jam album, and that bands influence is still pretty obvious here. A lot of the album also owes much to The Clash, particularly Don’t Break The Red Tape
, which is the most obvious London Calling
rip-off you’re ever likely to hear.
Amongst the mediocre production, songs and samples however, there are still some excellent redeeming moments. Be Somebody
is keyboard driven, upbeat, and catchy throughout. While not truly outstanding, it is probably the only song on the album that is not held back by the production, and as a result is arguably the highlight. Closer Silver Spoon
is also piano driven, and despite owing a lot to Oasis is a great, upbeat way to end the album. It’s these two songs, along with a handful of other enjoyable though slightly lesser moments that prevent Music For The People
from being a total let down. The album isn’t bad, but falls well wide of its arena conquering ambitions, and could even see The Enemy moving the opposite way, into smaller venues. This outcome would be harsh on the band, as there are bands that have made far worse albums playing in the places they want to be. Unfortunately though, this album is unlikely to win them too many new fans, and for that reason amongst others it has to be classed as a disappointment.