Building A Road

Spottiswoode And His Enemies

High Wire Records, 2003

http://www.spottiswoode.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/05/2005

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 (DigitalCity.com) 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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© 2005 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of High Wire Records, and is used for informational purposes only.