The EnemyEdit this event
- Rock City, Nottingham »
Sometimes it’s as subtle as the ebb and flow of the tides, sometimes it’s a gaping chasm; either way, the difference between style and substance is always notable under scrutiny. You can hear it in the mistiming of a snare hit or the late strumming of a guitar, and similarly you can hear it in slight breaks of faux-accents. Tonight stands as a stronger contrast, as The Enemy (pictured) begin their tour as support to The Fratellis.
Nowadays it seems like every band (and their marketing and PR team) builds themselves up as being a grass-roots working-class band plucked from the midst of terraced streets and the 9-to-5 routine. Maybe they are, but for the most part it seems a little forced. How do you separate fact from friction? You go right to the source.
I arrange to meet up with Tom Clarke, lead vocalist and guitarist from The Enemy, at the last minute. Organisation leads to preparation, I figure. Expecting to be the recipient of wary looks and a well-polished interview routine, I instead find my subject sat loosely on a wooden stool, strumming major chords from a cheap acoustic guitar. Handshakes are exchanged and niceties passed.
I ask how a recent tour of the (heated) toilet circuit has gone:
"From the start to the finish it was just complete fuckin’ aggro. We've ended up calling it the Aggro Tour, and we ended up playing onstage with one of my heroes, Neville Staples from The Specials.”
It’s obvious that the Coventry-based two-tone heroes are held in high regard, but is his home city as important to him lyrically?
"I defy any songwriter not to be influenced by his surroundings. I write about what I grew up with and what I see in the world around me.”
This view is surprisingly focused. From a snide look at the collapse of the automotive industry in Coventry in recent single 'It’s Not OK' to the now-typical denouncement of the 9-to-5 lifestyle, Tom's lyrical offerings show a wisdom beyond his years, even if his delivery of these thoughts, uncouth yet innocently genuine, is more typical of his age and upbringing.
Perhaps the greatest indicator to Tom's genuineness is his summarisation of his boyhood heroes:
“When I was growing up I listened to The Stones, The Specials, Oasis. Like everyone else I grew up listening to Oasis. Deep down everyone loves Oasis, anyone that says they don’t is a fucking liar."**
With the past covered I ask what does the future hold for Tom and The Enemy?
"We are going to be doing a load of small shows over the next couple of months, and then recording the album around May. We have a ton of songs written and we want to just get them recorded and get them out there.”
You can't blame him for his enthusiasm, for The Enemy are breaching the mainstream, and if the songs they debut tonight are anything to go by it could be mere minutes until they breakthrough. You could argue that their music bears similarities to that of their heroes, but The Enemy are not a glorified covers band. They bear enough energy and sandpaper-edged anthems to set them apart from the vast ocean of clones.
If you believe that a performance should be judged by the overall reaction it receives from its audience then The Fratellis would receive ten out of ten unquestionably, but the problem is the band don't even need to step into first gear to send the crowd into fits of rapture. Unlike The Enemy, whose energy and sheer desire to reach out to every single person in the room has to be respected even by those who sneer at their music. The Fratellis, meanwhile, are worryingly robotic and possess no stage presence; their music is so devoid of character that they could throw in 'Ruby' or 'Never Be Lonely' and the cover wouldn’t break up the set. In 'Creeping Up The Backstairs' there is a small sign of an identity, with its Mersey-pop guitar punch introduction, but this is a single exception to the rule.
On one hand you can't blame them for doing what is necessary to please the crowd, but then on the other you could wish misfortune upon every member and their families. Whichever way you look at it, The Fratellis are unlikely to change the world, or even a single opinion, with a set as formulaic and dull as the one delivered tonight. The Enemy, though, are sure to split that same opinion: the future for the Coventry trio looks a whole lot more interesting than that of tonight’s headliners.