The Enemy have, with Streets in the Sky, delivered the best album of the recession so far. Although it’s hardly a surprise that The Enemy have continued to explore their favourite themes of urban depression and the difficulties of modern living, what is surprising is that they seem to be doing it almost on their own. Streets in the Sky is, therefore, a precious thing.
To compare Tom Clarke to Bruce Springsteen might at first seem a little odd, but there’s a real comparison to be made. Both write about struggling young men and women with startling emotional involvement, and with a deeply hopeful and romantic sensibility. The Enemy’s unashamedly British sound falsifies any further comparison, but Clarke’s faculty for empathy is unusual, and is worth taking entirely seriously.
It’s become unfashionable to write songs about reality, but The Enemy do it self-consciously, and they do it well. ‘2 Kids’ documents a depressingly common realisation that big dreams might have disappeared. ‘This Is Real’’s protagonist is poor, lonely, and struggling. But in both cases, there’s some hope. Tom Clarke’s characters haven’t quite given up yet, and they’re implored not to. ‘Love we don’t have much/But what we have’s enough/Just hold your head up/And we’ll be ok’. ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’, in some ways, but, as another football-terrace chorus notes, ‘Saturday will make it all ok’. Clarke’s characters always have something, and often someone, dragging them through. Streets in the Sky is an album, in many ways, about love.
Although, for those in The Enemy’s songs, and for those they’re written for, the build up of pressures entailed by urban life is near unbearable, there’s always hope to be found in human relationships: things are never as bad as they might be, and at the weekend they’re a hell of a lot better.