Building A Road

Spottiswoode And His Enemies

High Wire Records, 2003

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


It was definitely during the swelling multi-part gospel vocal breakdown toward the finish of "Building A Road" that I made the decision to review this disc… and definitely not during the reeling, off-kilter horn break to be found mid-song on the opening "Drunk."

Yes, it must be said: Spottiswoode is demented. His Enemies, too. But in a good way.

Try to imagine combining the quirky genius of a Frank Zappa, the edgy artsiness of a David Bowie, the in-your-face theatrics of a Freddie Mercury and the bracing late-night-at-the-bar honesty of Ian Hunter -- whoops, don't forget the gospel choir! -- and you might at least have a clue what this album sounds like. But you'd need a lot more to get any closer, because it sounds very little like anything this reviewer has heard before… and therein lies its charm.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

First things first. Half-Brit, half-American, full-time showman Jonathan Spottiswoode's "Enemies" comprise a fairly unique lineup -- a not-exactly-standard guitar-guitar-bass-drums-trumpet-sax -- and are supplemented by a three-woman chorus of background singers who are perfectly capable of veering from bawdy nightclub vamps to a soaring church choir in a split second.

Thus you get mini-epics like "I'm Back Up" -- which sounds roughly like Van Morrison in the middle of a major bender, dark desperation transforming itself to deliriously urgent white soul uplift -- rubbing shoulders with tight, tasty confections like the proto-Ray Charles nightclub sass of "I'm In Love With An Angry Girl."

As boozily messy as "Drunk" is, Spottiswoode is equally as capable of issuing a calm, precise, sweetly melodic number like "One Way Street," with its whispery clarinet weaving in and out, above and below the trumpet. Or a gospel-tinged blues thumper like the title track. Or a silvery seduction piece like "Play Me In Your Bedroom." Or a self-pity wallow masquerading as an atmospheric mid-tempo rock number, as in "Lazarus."

You get the picture -- careening, unpredictable, potentially spectacular, definitely versatile, never boring.

My Internet colleague Missy Heckscher ( said it as well as I possibly could already: "There is a fine line between eccentricity and madness, a point where artistry becomes lunacy. Spottiswoode and His Enemies are at that point. Surely, they're on the edge of something -- whether that's impending stardom or prescription drugs has yet to be determined."

It could go either way, folks. But it will definitely be interesting to watch…!

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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