The Earlies

The Enemy Chorus

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AllMusic Review by

Though These Were the Earlies was the Earlies' debut album, it was also a collection of the EPs that they'd recorded over the span of several years. Keeping that in mind helps explain why their second album, The Enemy Chorus, is a fairly drastic change from the mellow experimentalism of their first. While the band still sounds eclectic, their eclectic sounds are now in service of a much more organized -- and much darker -- set of songs. From the album title to song names like "Burn the Liars" to the tension that stretches through nearly every track, The Enemy Chorus is palpably, if not obviously, political and conceptual. Taut, Krautrock-inspired lock grooves and tense electronics dominate, giving the feeling of some impending conflict or crisis, particularly on the album's early songs. "No Love in Your Heart" opens the album with oddly majestic brass fanfares, martial drumbeats, and a relentlessly rolling synth bass; "Burn the Liars"' impatient rhythms and heavy keyboards suggest a sci-fi dystopia; and "The Enemy Chorus" itself delivers on that promise, painting pictures of "trees marked with Xs/waiting for the final cut." By the time the sweet pedal steel and delicate textures of "The Ground We Walk On" (one of the songs that fans of These Were the Earlies will probably like right away) roll around, it's a relief -- and shows how carefully considered The Enemy Chorus' ebb and flow is. The Earlies' ambitions are also reflected in more abstract tracks like "Gone for the Most Part," a collage of orchestral sounds and alarm clocks, and the meditative, Eastern-tinged closer, "Breaking Point." At times, the album feels more interesting than likeable, but The Enemy Chorus does include a few moments of instant gratification: "Foundation and Earth"'s bouncy rhythm and flashy brass feel directly descended from '70s AM pop, and "Broken Chain" is a twinkling mantra that also nods to These Were the Earlies. The Enemy Chorus is a strangely formidable album, and in its own way, a daring one, too -- these songs of revenge, oppression, emptiness, and despair might puzzle some fans at first, but they certainly are impressive.

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