The Enemy

We'll Live and Die in These Towns

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The Enemy hail from Coventry, home of 2-Tone stars the Specials and the Selecter, but this young trio takes its retro cues instead from the bright and shiny mod pop of the Jam circa All Mod Cons and Setting Sons, adding more than a little Brit-pop vintage swagger à la the Stone Roses and Oasis. Their debut album, We'll Live and Die in These Towns, is isn't an unworthy addition to this long and respectable lineage, but at the same time, the Enemy are one of those bands with the unmistakable whiff of hype about them. Their initial pre-album singles were released on the Stiff Records label, the first new releases on that imprint since it had been shuttered 20 years beforehand, but following that buzz- and cred-building move, they were shifted over to Warner Bros., current holder of the Stiff insignia. Fully seven of this album's 11 tracks have been released as singles (the two best songs on the album, "Had Enough" and "Away from Here," were deserved Top Ten hits in the U.K.), a level of promotional overkill rarely seen since the days of Moby Grape, and the "controversies" that were circulated by the band and label's press agents -- feuds with popular disc jockeys, an incident where the group was banned from a festival, reportedly after setting fire to its trailer -- feel like a deliberate positioning of the relatively mild-mannered band as the new bad boys of rock & roll. (A stint opening for the superannuated Rolling Stones at their 2007 U.K. tour dates has an equally contrived "passing of the torch" feel.) The contrivance and falsity of the hype around the band shouldn't affect the music, but unfortunately, it does, highlighting the false notes in singer/songwriter Tom Clarke's tales of urban anomie, which ring less true than those of, say, Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner (and, crucially, lack his sardonic wit) and pointing out how very much he's copying late-'70s Paul Weller. The title track is an especially blatant bit of musical hero worship. On its own merits, We'll Live and Die in These Towns is a lightweight but enjoyable bit of laddish rock & roll, but heard in the context of the almost overwhelming hype that surrounded its release, the album simply doesn't stack up to the claims made on its behalf.

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