The Enemy Chorus
sychedelic rock’s appeal goes far beyond the “good shit” that may have inspired it. The Flaming Lips (from whom The Enemy Chorus is a direct sonic descendent) certainly seem to have a number of mind-expanding extracurricular pursuits, but that’s beside the point. Hell, the clean-cut types flock to the Lips’ Mad-Hatter-with-fake-blood performances in greater numbers than the stoners. The Earlies have smartly lifted a bit of this philosophy from Coyne & Co.: push the envelope a bit, but keep the drug references slyly off (or at least under) the table.
The first Earlies album, 2005’s These Were the Earlies, was culled from highlights of EPs and mostly recorded long-distance between the band’s Texan and British members. With a bit of a studio budget and a bona-fide deal, the band has more freedom to push on their boundaries, but Enemy Chorus sounds more like a record that has been packed up and shipped across the Atlantic a couple times.
The songs are designed in a tidy and modular fashion, with carefully trilled feedback dropping in here and hypnotic Hammond organs whirring out there, and a number of neat krautrock beats and synth lines. Instead of idiosyncrasy, there’s a whole lot of idiom. “Foundation and Earth,” sneakily switching 6/4 and 7/4 time signatures with the organized chaos of horns and synth licks, has no bombast of overly energetic (or especially technical) playing, no entropy seeping into hi-hat splashes. While the track’s thump is inherently catchy and will find its way onto many a mixtape, there’s a sense that the frayed loose ends from These Were The Earlies have been neatly snipped off.
It’s tough to demonize this record, though. The bi-continental band sticks to what they know (other peoples’ music), and instead of wasting time in overly complicated experiments, they shoot for tight melodies, big arrangements, and those trademarked Earlies vocal harmonies. So what if there are bits of Soft Bulletin and Dusk at Cubist Castle all over the record? At least they managed to choose the bits that fit together well.
For that, the Earlies don’t have much to apologize for. Psychedelic influence has already wound into subgenres of hard rock, pop, soul, blues, and jazz. Shoegazers were all into the same music as Neu! So was Funkadelic. So is Robert Fripp, and he’s more Earl Grey than Lorenzo St. DuBois. The Earlies possess an impressive musical lexicon and have used it to tell a rather compelling story as long as you’re not looking for too many surprises or freak-outs. The Enemy Chorus almost sounds best if you’re either (a) paying extremely close attention, or (b) hardly paying any attention at all—kinda like a perfect psychedelic record.