Enemy Love's Brooklyn garage-rock
by Seth Rogovoy
(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., March 8, 2004) – New York City, and particularly Brooklyn, is ground zero for some of the most exciting new rock being made these days. Bands like the Strokes, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Liars, lumped loosely together as avatars of neo-garage or new wave revivalists, are just the best known of hundreds of bands that look back to the pre-grunge era for inspiration, on the way toward making vital and energetic new music for a new generation.
Enemy Love, a trio of Brooklyn refugees who have transplanted themselves to Housatonic, brought some of this neo-garage excitement to downtown when they performed at Club Helsinki on Sunday night. The group artfully navigated its way through an hour-long set of original tunes, alternating brooding, mid-tempo rockers with hypercharged punk-rock riffs flavored with high harmonies, psychedelic distortion and muscular rhythms.
The bespectacled singer/guitarist Pete Rinko, who met drummer Matt Hayes at Bard College, made something of an atypical frontman, but his high-pitched voice – think a softer Ray Davies – nicely contrasted with his reverb-laden, echoey guitar that constantly flirted with the edge of feedback and distortion. Bassist and Yale University graduate Daniel Silk, looking like a young Pete Townshend, laid down solid harmonic underpinnings that often veered off in surprising directions. Hayes was a monster on his large kit, but the music called for it, even if at times he overwhelmed the other two.
Enemy Love could be dreamy one moment and thrashing the next. On some of the tunes Rinko sang and played like a mid-‘70s John Lennon with minor-key chord progressions out of George Harrison, and with an echoey, “Let It Be” vibe one number could have easily metamorphosed into “Across the Universe.” But as quickly as the band became dreamy in a My Bloody Valentine fashion, they switched gears and crashed their way through a hard-charging number with the ferocity of The Clash.
There was a purity of line in the groups stripped-down, minimalist textures, however – somewhere in the band’s DNA lurked hints of surf-rock and noir-rock. And the bouncy pop rhythms at once made the music fresh while hinting at a love of The B-52s. Rinko’s lyrics were never clear through the din; they worked more as just another sonic element, one sailing above the psychedelic clatter, although it would have been good to get a little more sense about what he was singing. He seemed to be singing a lot about sunshine, however, and no doubt the sun will shine on this band before too long.
In the meantime, it’s great to have them residing here in the Berkshires. Perhaps with garage rockers tripping over each other on every street corner in Williamsburg much the way folk-rockers overpopulated Greenwich Village in the late-1960s before many found haven in Woodstock, N.Y., the hamlet of Housatonic and its environs might likewise provide refuge for a host of harried neo-new wavers.
[This review originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on March 9, 2004. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2004. All rights reserved.]
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