Review Summary: An improvement of sorts, though that hardly represents an accomplishment.
As far as reality checks go, The Enemy's fall from grace has been as brutal as they come. Back in 2009, the Coventry trio were sitting pretty comfortably. They'd achieved a commendable level of success with the Weller-endorsed meat 'n' potatoes thrills of their debut, and were preparing an assault to the jugular regarding its follow-up. Operating under the assumption that they represented the voice of a generation, they took the hugely misguided step of naming it Music For The People
, a title which even at the time seemed hilariously delusional. It was, to all intents and purposes, the record which would promote them from indie's second tier into the arenas and stadiums they so craved, a desire they made little attempt to disguise in both its build-up and run-time.
All of this would of course be forgivable if the album in question was any good, but, to be perfectly blunt, it wasn't. It was in fact so bad that it ranks among the worst albums released by a major artist over the past few years, with its overblown, patronising and cringeworthy 'anthems' stirring little but the gag reflex. The band members themselves, however, were thoroughly pleased with their work, and genuinely seemed to think that it'd elevate them alongside the likes of The Clash and Pulp as beacons for the UK's working class - ironic given that those were two of the bands they thieved from in some of the most shameful and disgusting plagiarism in recent memory.
In a rare display of musical tact, 'The People' at whom the record was so publicly aimed mercilessly trashed it. Rejected, ridiculed and humiliated, The Enemy secluded into the shadows, where they've stayed for three years, plotting a program in which they could prize back a proportion of their dignity. The result is Streets In The Sky
, a record which makes a determined - if rather unconvincing – return to their roots, in an attempt to round up old followers who have understandably chosen to desert them. Enlisting The Bronx's Joby Ford as producer was a smart move, as his raw and ready style acts as a virtual antithesis of Music For The People
's bloated posture, but while the appropriate treatment has been applied, the record's actual content still leaves much to be desired.
In all fairness, it actually begins rather well. The opening salvo of 'Gimme A Sign' and 'Bigger Cages (Longer Chains)' bristles with the purposefulness and aggression of a band that knows it has something to prove, and for the most part it's a stance which suits them. They're not outstanding songs by any means, but they beat pretty much any of their immediate predecessors, and in 'Gimme A Sign's case provided a solid lead single. From then on in, however, the record steeply descends into the type of mindless drivel that's given The Enemy and bands of their ilk such a bad name. There's no innovation or creativity here, that goes without saying, but what we are entitled to expect is to hear the band pushing themselves, or the very least striving to dabble out of a comfort zone which has already proven itself to be severely limited. Instead, the vast majority of Streets In The Sky
comes across as an exercise in turgid laziness, with the trio seemingly content to the bow to the small-minded LCD demands of their LADdish fanbase. It is catchy in places, that much is undeniable, but its hooks are utterly devoid of both taste and substance, meaning that for what initial appeal it has, the record holds precisely no staying power.
Regrettably, the band's tendency to 'borrow' from others once more rears its head , albeit in a considerably less blatant manner. The most obvious example is 'It's A Race,' the chorus of which sounds suspiciously akin to James' 'Laid' (you know, the song from American Pie
...) and there are plenty of other borderline cases. There are even times when they fall victim to their own lack of imagination, with 'Gimme A Sign' and 'Turn It On' essentially being the same song with an amended chorus. The latter is a particular lowlight, virtually tripping over its own heels in a bid to reach a crescendo that's basically rubbish, and that result can be applied to Streets In The Sky
as a whole. It's a diligent and occasionally desperate attempt to atone for past misdemeanors, but somewhat predictably falls well short of the requirements needed for a victorious comeback. They'll no doubt continue to excel on the live stage, and may yet have a couple of decent records in them, but if they really want to win back 'The People's hearts and minds they'll need to do far more than settle for such mundane mediocrity.