Little is known about the rock group Dreamers of the Ghetto. In fact, most of what I know about them is what I was able to intuit from their début, “Enemy/Lover”. I would guess that they work incredibly hard on their music, that they have a a great appreciation and understanding of their craft and those that came before them, and that they would probably name “atmosphere” as one of the more important parts of putting a record together. With certainty, I can only really say one thing about Dreamers of the Ghetto; they released a damn good début. It’s a record that doesn’t just stay solid throughout; it’s a record that builds and gloriously explodes.
“Antenna” opens the album, and provides a short, soft build which perfectly sets up the kick of the first track of the album, “The State of a Dream”. Dreamers of the Ghetto waste no time hitting you with a sound that seems both ethereal and encompassing as well as strangely gritty. It isn’t a line between sounds that’s walked; it’s two styles that seem as if they should cancel each other out working in tandem. It’s sound that’s unique and, importantly, understood and intelligently used by the band – a sound that continues throughout “Enemy/Lover”, though on different songs the different sides switch between foreground and background.
The title of “Enemy/Lover” speaks well to the tone of the album. It ignores the idea of an emotional dichotomy, and while this may spell doom for lesser albums, Dreamers of the Ghetto manage to pull it off. The hope of the celestial and loss of the earthly on Enemy/Lover work well together because there seems to be one unifying lyrical and melodic thread tying them together; longing. Enemy/Lover is at once nostalgic for safer, happier times, and yet also optimistically looking forward. By the end of the record, the darker plummets on the record seem perfectly balanced out with the moments of rapture. No song better captures this than the penultimate track, Night Hawks, a song that manages to be both grounded and detached, hopeful and foreboding, creating a picture as unsure and foreboding as the Edward Hopper painting it takes its name from.
And if I may be brutally honest for a moment; it just works. It works so incredibly well, on every song. It’s an album that feels like it doesn’t have any filler at all, even the songs under a minute long seem to be perfect bookmarks. “Antenna” points us upwards and introduces us to the more ethereal opening tracks, while “Crime Scene” brings us down into the darker second half of the album (thematically more than anything – both halves feature emotional diminuendo’s and crescendo’).
Cynically, I suppose at one point during the record I started waiting for the song I’d hate, or more accurately, waiting for the moment to exhale. I was patiently anticipating the moment I’d shrug and say “Oh well, I knew it couldn’t last”. Yet, that moment never came. The album finished, and I felt almost like I had to double check – to make sure I didn’t happen to skip the one dud on the album. I hadn’t. I can say that during the fist thirty seconds or so of “Phone Call” (shamefully I think this may have been out of my typical English eagerness to be disappointment) I thought that may be the song I had cold feelings towards, but the song grew into a catchy, hopeful build that I must admit left me totally charmed by its end. Catchy. That’s a word that, in theory is a compliment, but in recent years it’s been used snidely by critics, usually as a mean-spirited jab at whatever singles breaking records that week. The thing is, most of the songs on “Enemy/Lover” (even the darker ones) manage to be catchy and infectious, though out of quality rather than simplicity.
It’s rather hard to pick a stand out favourite on “Enemy/Lover”, as you may have guessed. One thing I can say, is that when I listen to the record I always metaphorically hold my breath in the seconds between “Phone Call” and “Dark Falcons”. “Dark Falcons” is a song that I’m always aware the exact number of songs away from it I am when listening to “Enemy/Lover”. It’s so terrifically dark, with terrific imagery. Jonathan Jones lends a terrific sense of drama and urgency to the songs of “Enemy/Lover”, but on “Dark Falcons” he also creates an air of importance. Jones does the song justice, painting a romantic, tragic and dreamlike picture that lifts just as it finishes. It’s a powerful, but smartly restrained song that ones can’t help but fall into. I also like the placement of “Dark Falcons” next to similarly-titled “Night Hawks”, and both those songs before the final track “Tether”. It’s as if from “Crime Scene”, we slowly being to ascend with the dreamers, and are pulled gently back down to earth with the record’s final song. It’s an image that’s beautifully realised on the albums cover. I always think it’s unprofessional to talk about album art (especially because by this point in the review I am no doubt already gushing about the record), so I will keep it brief; it is incredibly pretty and creates an image perfectly representative of the record.
What else is there really left to say about “Enemy/Lover”? I’m sure I could pile more praise onto the shoulders of Dreamers of the Ghetto, but at this point it seems almost redundant. I’ve even applauded their album art, for pete’s sake. “Enemy/Lover” is a terrific record, establishing a wonderful mood using fantastic imagery. Dreamers of the Ghetto have not only put out a great album, but one of the best débuts of 2011.