For starters, the smooth baritone singer once told a writer, "Tom Waits would never do anything in bad taste; Leonard Cohen couldn't be upbeat if he tried; Nick Cave is a prisoner of his own tortured hipness." On his ridiculously ambitious previous album, 2002's Building a Road, re-released this year by High Wire Music, Spottiswoode and his five-piece Enemies tempt bad taste with thick background layers of gospel choruses and New Orleans horns. They kick "upbeat" in the teeth as they burst into bar-brawl breaks and smirk at their own tortured hipness with lyrics like, "Lazarus/He rose from the dead/But I/Can't even pull myself out of bed." Chances are that their cult is small not only because they arrived at their style decades late, but also because their leader, an Ivy League student of "intellectual history," lacks the knack for either storytelling or bon mot carpet-bombing boasted by more celebrated contemporaries like Dan Bern and Clem Snide. Or maybe it's just that Spottiswoode is really as idealistic and cranky as he pretends.
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