Music

The Earlies: The Enemy Chorus

There's a point on the Earlies’ sophomore album, The Enemy Chorus, when it stops being an album and transforms into an experience.


The Earlies

The Enemy Chorus

Label: Secretly Canadian
US Release Date: 2007-01-23
UK Release Date: 2007-01-29
Amazon
iTunes

There’s a point on the Earlies’ sophomore album, The Enemy Chorus, when it stops being an album and transforms into an experience. The point itself isn’t exact, but the effect is. Fans of the '60s garage-tinted rock stylings of the Earlies’ first album will be jarred when they hear an album that couldn’t sound more modern if it tried. Electronic beats, swelling string sections, orchestral rock passages, vocal reverb effects stacked on top of each other like some aural pancake with all the fixings -- it’s an enormous undertaking, no matter which way you slice it. It’s the fight against the sophomore slump taken to an extreme degree that no one saw coming. Not only did the Earlies win the fight, but they just won the war as well.

The Enemy Chorus is pure pop, but pop with a laser-edge focus. Every single note, keyboard trill, and lyric has been examined, polished, and put in its place just right. This is an album that feeds off of choruses, and chokes on the very notion of a useless atrocity like a guitar solo floating about. The opening salvo, "No Love in Your Heart", starts with the strings flourishing about, before riding a persistent electronic thump, adding in the voices and overlapping melodies one-by-one, until we’re riding on a full-blown horn section at the close. Considering how the band began as a four-piece with members residing on opposite sides of the Pond, it’s a bit of a shake when you realize that right on the back of the LP, no less than 15 full-fledged band members are listed -- a mark of undeniably expanding ambition. When you hear the oboe tune-up at the start of the near-perfect ballad, "The Ground We Walk On", it’s hard not to imagine every one of those 15 musicians having some say in the proceedings, thinking that, "hey this random instrument would work great here!" and the other 14 realizing that, in fact, it does.

Yet such noble democratic songwriting would mean nothing if the songs themselves were unlistenable art-noise experimentations. You may have heard the crunchy horn opening of "Foundation and Earth" somewhere before, but here it’s so crisp and clear that you simply can’t ignore it. The melody, by itself, is unremarkable (and the vocals are almost an afterthought on this particular track), but through producer Tom Knott’s balanced lens, the whimsy overpowers the ridiculousness, and we’re left sitting with what sounds like the greatest Super Furry Animals album anyone’s ever heard. Ideas flow freely, yet they are arranged in a vibrant fashion. The looped piano of "Burn the Liars" would sound tiresome in other hands, but having a sci-fi keyboard break following the fast-talking chorus-in-unison, it not only works, it makes perfect sense, even if you didn’t see it coming.

However, such cinematic ambitions occasionally stumble over their own weight. "Bad Is as Bad Does" rides its dark melody for all it’s worth, but it’s one of the least attractive hooks that Enemy Chorus has to offer. The same sickness befalls a missed opportunity for a magnificent closer, the regrettably repetitive "Breaking Point", relying on simple melodies to serve as a forceful climax, when all the momentum simply plateaus out around the three-minute mark. The Sufjan-inspired orchestral instrumental number "Gone for the Most Part", could certainly have been argued as more fitting in terms of closure, but serving as a beautiful "intermission" for the album is a far stronger choice.

It’s hard to call an album like this a classic, right off the bat, and this critic certainly isn’t making such a claim. However, it’s amazingly close. It’s an utter joy to hear such a young band obtain ambitions that only seasoned veterans would consider, and astonishing to hear that same band actually live up to such shoot-for-the-moon optimism. It’s a rare album that is not only great on it’s first listen, but just as remarkable on it’s tenth. For all its beauty and even its flaws, it’s a remarkable achievement. Even for being released in January, it’s no stretch to say it’s already one of the best albums of 2007. The only thing more frightening: what the Earlies shoot for next.

9

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
8

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image