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The Enemy UK

Young Britons (duh) celebrate the working class with ace tunes.

Tom Clarke is bleeding, but he couldn’t be happier. The Enemy UK’s frontman mangled his hand on his guitar at the band’s first-ever American show, a mid-afternoon slot on a sweltering side stage at Lollapalooza in August. A few hundred watched and a few dozen pogoed — decidedly fewer than the thousands the Enemy UK draw at home — but Clarke considers it a triumph. He wanted bodies moving, and he got some. “I wasn’t going to tolerate anything less,” he says.

For a band lyrically stuck on all things gray and British, the Enemy UK are massively upbeat, no doubt a result of winning the rock lottery: Two years ago, they were bored teens in working-class Coventry, and then in 2007, their debut, We’ll Live and Die in These Towns, hit No. 1 on the U.K. charts, and they scored an opening slot for the Rolling Stones. After a long delay due to legal issues regarding their name (turns out the Enemy is a popular choice here), the album finally got a U.S. release in August.

“I find it slightly mental that we’re in Chicago playing music,” exclaims Clarke, 21. “It’s your dream job. I hate it when you meet bands and they complain. They are the luckiest cunts in the world.”

Clarke counts himself and his bandmates — drummer Liam Watts and bassist Andy Hopkins, both 21 — among those lucky cunts. Their songs are about a city they love but couldn’t wait to leave, complete with visions of pregnant teens and shuttered factories. Poppy arrangements — jangling guitars, soaring strings, delicate piano — and sing-along choruses temper the wistful lyrics. Moments vividly echo the Jam, but Clarke says he hadn’t heard anything by Paul Weller until recently. As for inspirations, he swears by Oasis: “I’ve been playing ‘Wonderwall’ since it was released!” (He would’ve been seven.)

Clarke and his mates care more about penning meaningful tunes (“A band with something to say — rare as rocking-horse shit these days!”) than being fashionable. They’re aiming for timelessness, not transitory cool. “Cool is a very hard thing to define,” says Clarke. “At the minute, I’m definitely not cool. I’m standing in Chicago with the sun beating down, in a leather jacket. I’m fucking sweating.”


— The Enemy UK were such fans of Oasis that they hired producer Owen Morris of Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? fame to work on their early singles.
– Before forming the band, Clarke and Watts worked at rival shops selling TVs, while Hopkins put in a stint at FedEx.