It’s fairly standard practice now for an indie band to make its debut with a singles collection. Countless bands, from Stereolab to Broadcast to the Beta Band to recent favorites Fujiya & Miyagi, have compiled their seven and twelve-inches prior to releasing a proper debut. The resulting collection is almost always great, but the real trick is in releasing a worthwhile follow-up, or proper album, rather. If your first outing is a singles collection, you’re putting the cart before the horse in a sense, stacking up the hits before there’s even anything to bridge them. The Beta Band released a handful of decent albums, though none of them were quite as stunning as The Three EPs. Yet Broadcast, who’s debut comp Work and Non Work was fantastic in itself, far surpassed it with follow up albums The Noise Made by People and haha Sound. So, after releasing their debut Those Were the Earlies, also a collection of EP material recorded over several years, The Earlies could have easily gone either way.
The one thing to keep in mind with this bi-continental band is that their “singles” didn’t act so much like standard singles. They were dense, heady, psychedelic excursions with trippy effects, lush, symphonic sounds and lengthy instrumental passages. But get these guys together to record sessions for one singular album, and you’ve got something a little tighter, a little more accessible, and certainly every bit as good. The Enemy Chorus, the band’s sophomore effort, or proper debut full-length if you want to split hairs, finds the band dabbling in psych-pop, just as they had before, but with somewhat surprising results. For reasons beyond any rational explanation, it is actually this collection that sounds more like a set of singles than their prior effort.
The Enemy Chorus is a surprisingly diverse set of songs, opening with a crash and a symphonic intro in “No Love In Your Heart,” which then segues into pulsating synth basslines and cascading lines of piano. The bouncy, vaguely krautrock sounding “Burn the Liars” then takes the band into more direct territory, neatly delineating verse and chorus, the psychedelic reel only wrapping itself gently around the otherwise danceable stomp. On the title track, the group begins to veer back toward the sound of their debut, stretching out into slower, trippier material, as they also do on the instrumental “Gone for the Most Part,” yet the ballad “The Ground We Walk On” almost sounds like a Doves or Badly Drawn Boy outtake.
The beats and grooves get harder and nastier on “Bad Is as Bad Does,” a song that utilizes backwards samples in a psychedelic manner, yet the results are far less of an acid-fest than that of a stunning, epic rock song. One can’t help but feel transported to the AM pop Gold of the ’70s on the horn-laden pop of “Foundation and Earth,” which is one of the most fun tracks on here. Closing off The Enemy Chorus is “Breaking Point,” a true foray into dense, swirling psychedelic sounds, piling on sitars, synths and hammond organ, making for one of their most exciting instrumental tracks, as opposed to some of the more atmospheric pieces they are wont to do.
Without any prior knowledge of the band, in a blind listening test, I would have guessed that The Enemy Chorus was the singles collection, and not These Were the Earlies. Regardless of radio-ready sound and overall catchiness, both records share something important in common—a great set of songs.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.