The Enemy Are Not The EnemyBy Alex Miller
Over the last week, every smug git with access to a computer, a copy of Retromania, and a Robyn remix album, has been enjoying shitting all over The Enemy. In case you're American, or under 19, The Enemy are a three-piece band from Coventry who play deeply unfashionable rock and roll. It's the kind of earnest lad pop which was labelled "landfill indie" by a bunch of music journalists towards the end of the last decade. Now they're back with a new album and, probably, a new set of Reading Festival quotes about how "real music" (ie. music with guitars) needs a re-up.
The Enemy's return has brought out the absolute worst in the planet. Everyone seems to think it's funny that they've been dropped by their last record label. Everyone seems to think it's funny that they had to cancel a concert at Coventry Cathedral because of a lack of funds or lack of sales, depending on who you believe. Everyone hates the artwork and everyone hates the band. Somehow these three young dudes from the Midlands who once had a number one album of well-meaning, small-town lefty polemics have come to represent everything people hate about music. Why?
I think the problem lies in the mid-noughties, when a certain type of cosmopolitan journalist became disgruntled by the enduring popularity of bands like Kasabian, The Pigeon Detectives and The Enemy. In their minds, these were groups that represented a type of thuggish over-simplicity which stood in the way of the globalist femininity of pop like Ladyhawke, Little Boots, or La Roux. Somehow the reductivism of those laddish bands - enjoyed by douchey V Festival crowds, not hip bloggers - was perceived as a kind of successor to the racist, homophobic, boring Disco Sucks movement of the 70s.
This opinion was kind of seemingly proven to be true by Noel Gallagher - lad rock's Churchill - banging on about how Jay-Z playing at Glastonbury was a travesty. After that, it seemed clear that if you liked bands that liked Noel Gallagher (AKA a massive percentage of bands from outside London) you probably sucked. And you might even be secretly racist. And you definitely didn't know what XXJFG meant.
Well, at least that's my theory on why it became so unforgivable to be in a straight-up indie rock and roll band (don't get me wrong, the endlessly shit music being plugged by rubbish magazines and festivals probably didn't help either).
Anyway, fast-forward to today, and being very mean about The Enemy seems to be fashionable. The appreciation of pop music as craft and art has become the most tedious dialogue around. It's supposed to be anti-snobbish and surprising, but now getting hyped about the Sugababes reunion is the cultural equivalent of telling people Hitler was nice to dogs, or a vegetarian. In fact, the pro-pop lobby is now so massive, that they're able to crush and mock kids with guitars as much as kids with guitars used to tease X-Factor winners. The fantastic music writer Tim Jonze picked up on this over the weekend, Christening the phrase, "landfill pop". As well he might - after all, what is a band like Stooshe other than a tuneless attempt at jumping aboard a bandwagon? Yet they've had plenty of column inches, all heavily reliant on press releases, and all spouting the landfill pop mantra: 'They're Not Your Typical Manufactured Pop Band!' When of course, that's exactly what they are.
It doesn't seem too different from the endless reams of identikit young-twats-with-guitars that, depending on your tastes, either blighted or blessed the noughties.
The rage The Enemy have managed to inspire in the kind of lefty media bibble I tend to follow on Twitter (takes one to know one, I guess) is best typified by last week's billion-word review of their new album Streets in the Sky on The Quietus. The Quietus are my mates, but I sent them a pissy email once I'd read the review. God it was savage, written by someone from Coventry with a real agenda against the band. There was a snobbery in the tone which reminded me of the way British men of a certain generation used to talk about rap music. But, when confronted by the evidence, it seemed like hyperbole.
He pointed out some "bad" lyrics: "He's walking like a penguin / All zipped up tight / He's acting like he's Tupac / But he's never even seen a gun." Sure, it's not fucking Yeats, but 90 percent of lyrics are bloody dreadful, at least this means something and at least it might be relevant to the kind of kid who'd buy an Enemy record. Frankly, the review's intro is just as silly, including, as it does, the sentence: "Cross over the road my friend, ask the Lord his strength to lend." Once you're splitting the infinitive, you've got no right to diss someone else's lyrics. [Amendment, apparntly it's a quote from a hymn, which is still kinda pompous. Anyway, soz for not Googling! - AM]
Anyway, it's an entertaining review, and it's certainly tapped into some kind of zeitgeist, it's just annoying. Like The Enemy. They're annoying for sure, but since they just got a number nine album, they must have tapped into something, right? It's not like they had a massive media takeover. Unless you count them playing at the FA Cup. A gig they couldn't escape from without suffering the ignominy of being negatively previewed by the Guardian's sports writers. I think they deserve better than that. "Away From Here" was pretty good, wasn't it?
Anyway, all I'm saying is:
1. Some people like The Enemy.
2. Who gives a shit? Some people like Eastenders, but I don't get angry about it, I just don't watch it.
3. I don't think The Enemy stand for whatever loutish crap Oasis fans once preached in 1999. I think they probably share a lot of social and political principals with their critics.
4. There's an awful lot of boring, shit pop music that ISN'T made with guitars.
5. There's a lot of boring, shit pop music that IS made with guitars.
6. Who cares?
7. I think the crowd at the FA Cup Final probably enjoyed The Enemy far more than The Knife, or Jessie Ware, or whoever the Guardian sports writers like. So leave them alone.
8. The endless cycle of genre popularity in Britain currently goes: Pop > Dance > Rap > Rock, with pop about to fall from its perch, sinking beneath rock again and elevating dance for a few years, while the rap scene (not to be confused with the pop-grime scene) turns itself from cool to profitable.
9. I really, really hope The Enemy nail it and get five number one singles and then everyone will have to listen to them all the time and we'll all probably start humming along.
10. Yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah.
Follow Alex on Twitter: @terriblesoup