By Martin Smith
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 336

Grey Britain, The Gallows; Music for the People, The Enemy

This article is over 14 years, 11 months old
The Specials, The Jam and The Clash articulated the anger and pain felt by millions of young people during the early years of the Thatcher era. Today a new generation of young people are being thrown on the unemployment scrapheap - over 616,000 people aged between 16 and 25 have found themselves without work.
Issue 336

Two new albums, Grey Britain by The Gallows and Music for the People by The Enemy, are hymns for a new generation staring into the void created by the recession.

The Gallows are from Watford and The Enemy are from Coventry, both places, in their own ways, urban ghost towns – places where the dreams of the young, brought up on mass consumerism and materialism, are going to be destroyed.

Frank Carter, the lead singer of The Gallows, told journalists, “This record has a lot to do with what’s going on in the world today. With the way the country is at the minute – the economic downturn, the recession – it seems to be falling into the shit.”

Tom Clarke, the lead singer of The Enemy, made a similar point: “Like America, we now need a return to democracy. We just have two political parties, which are exactly the same. And that’s why young people don’t vote.”

The Enemy’s sound is mainstream rock, which overtly borrows (I’m being very generous here) musical ideas from The Jam and The Clash. It’s catchy and very safe. On the other hand, the Gallows album is angry, fast and furious. It is a relentless mixture of metal, punk and thrash, accompanied by an orchestral score that adds real depth to the music. I just love it.

Both bands are full of contradictions. They remind me of the young Union Jack waving Paul Weller (the lead singer of The Jam), a man who shocked us all when he said he was a “working class Tory”. For instance, Frank, the Gallows front man, argues, “England is not a great place any more. It is a grey place now. We just figured what better title to have for our second album. We’re the most proud British band on the planet.”

The band’s guitarist even claimed, “There was no incentive to find work.” In an interview with The Sun, Tom from The Enemy said, “I think too often people whinge about how shit England is, when it’s not. England is one of the best countries in the world with one of the most advanced societies. We’ve got an NHS, which the rest of the world is envious of. I’m massively proud of our country.”

This contradiction between patriotism and despair makes for wonderful music. In their own ways, both bands demand and expect so much and at the same time their dreams are being shattered.

The Enemy’s music takes an admirable swipe at the system, but with The Gallows it’s a case of a band kicking over the statues and putting out the fires with gasoline.

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