REVIEWS FOR SPOTTISWOODE & HIS ENEMIES (eponymous debut album)
Altarnative.com, Lexi Kahn
“A musical artist like Spottiswoode comes along far too rarely. This is pure ambrosia, destined for success in the cultish underground that spawns the thinking person’s love affair with the likes of Divine Comedy, Tiger Lillies, Nick Cave, and The Fatima Mansions. The 17 tracks here shimmer in a haze of pulsing rhythms, baritone horns, sweet harmonies and confessional (sometimes unsettling) lyrical expression. Though it isn’t a concept album, Spottiswoode & His Enemies essentially explores 17 ways to deconstruct heartache. Anchoring every song are the provocative and husky vocals of Jonathan Spottiswoode, a transplanted Londoner with several axes to grind. Stylish in both idea and execution, Spottiswoode is part storyteller, part social commentator, part lovesick Lothario. The songs veer seamless- ly from the sonic primal scream (“Rattle the Bars”) to the twisted fable (“Enfant Terrible”) to delightfully surprising dance-hall romp (“What’s The Point?”), and every track is brilliant in every way.
Even more compelling than the gorgeous orchestration --- take note particularly of the guitars and horns--- is the lyrical grace and drama. Masterful use of language yields delicious gems like ‘She likes English accents and chocolate desserts/She takes pills for her diet and cheap cigarettes/And she is who she is but much more and much less/A tiara on speed who knows how to dress.’ Androgynous insouciance, and as poetic as a glass of absinthe. Spottiswoode is, in a word, astonishing.”
Performing Songwriter, DIY Top 12 Reviews
“Spottiswoode is downright weird. And that’s meant as the sincerest of compliments. The howling, broken, Bone Machine-esque intro to “Rattle the Bars” sets the tone for this distinctly skewed record that could best be de- scribed as Peter Murphy and Jello Biafra leading the Velvet Underground through a panorama of Franz Kafka’s worst nightmares. With the ghost of John Philip Sousa conducting.
Spottiswoode and his band, as well as this record, are nigh on impossible to categorize. They’re brilliantly unreview- able, thick, disturbed and haunted. There are horn sections, off-kilter bass, roiling guitars, a man in a wedding dress ...
Simultaneously inspiring and repellent, reveling in its pretentiousness, this record never takes itself too seriously but demands seriousness of its listener. This CD ranges from dark existentialist chaos to focused, almost-pretty balladry without betraying its singularly smart, tormented vision.
This is music to champion. Even if you’re not quite sure why.”
Washington Post, Mike Joyce
“Alternately moody and loopy...Spottiswoode has a vicsous, 40-watt baritone voice, pleanty of theatrical flair, and a stylistic reach broad enough to trigger a wave of flattering Breacht-to-Bowie comparisons.”
“Their self-titled debut is a bit of a Trojan horse, an explosion marketed as a CD. Listening to this is like coming home and finding that your house has been taken over by a drag queen party, with Tom Waits fronting Morphine for entertainment and catering by David Lynch. That would be Tom Waits without the restraint.....The lyrics to just about everything on this CD will make you want to crawl out of your skin, yet they’re so well-written, and the music is so goddamned good, that you’re going to be torn between hitting the eject button and playing this track, and oth- ers, over and over and over.”
“Top Pick of the Month - Blatantly sexual. Provocative. Primitive. Causes one’s extremities to tingle and shiver. If this doesn’t stir the most lustful thoughts in you, then you should have your pulse checked.......you might be dead. There is some strange kind of visionistically warped sense of direction at play. The unconscious whims of Spottiswoode just hover and dart from thought to thought; taking the listener through an abundance of voyeuristic experiences. Highly erotic. Any fan of intense mood music would be wise to invest in this mentally stimulating device.”
AIDING & ABETTING, J Worley
“Truly warped love songs and other observations. Spottiswoode (and plenty of enemies, if that’s what he wants to call them) create a wonderfully textured album of dark pop songs.Which isn’t too surprising. This disc picks up where
he left on his last album and just expands his wicked worldview on concentric circles. The eclectic arrangements and busy instrumentation ensure a sonic depth that illustrates the lyrics quite beautifully.And while the themes may be on the mean side, the sound is gorgeous. Lilting, rambling, gamboling, as if on the pillowtops of clouds. This is one of the most sophisticated sounds I’ve heard on any album, particularly one independently produced. Though I think I said the same thing of the last Spottiswoode disc.Well, see, it wasn’t a fluke. This is amazing music, the kinda stuff that sticks in the mind long after the sound waves have moved on through the air. Intelligent songs played with style and care. A beautiful sound. What else do you want?”
TheGlobalMuse.com Michael Allison
“’Spottiswoode and His Enemies’ is a trek into the strange, yet brilliant dwellings through the mind of a musical genius. The music fuses jazz,pop/rock, and spoken word chants into the melting pot of what we know as true artistry and originality. Many of the songs have that quirky strangeness that we’ve come to expect from the likes of Lou Reed. Many of the songs are heavy with jazz overtones, but the melodies have strong pop-like hooks that stick in your head for days. I must say that it is nice to hear music with such an original beauty. There is no lack of flavor or substance here. The lyrics are as deep and the musicianship and creative vision that it took to create this amazing work. Even after the music stopped, I found myself wonder what the hell it was that I just heard. The awe that I felt from this music is truly unique. This music sounds like everything that you’ve ever heard, yet nothing you’ve ever heard. The unique fusion and complex lyrics give the music it’s originality, while the popish flavor and hooks give it the famili- arity. This is definitely one album that I won’t soon forget.”
www.fufkin.com, Jason Thompson
“A regal triumph from beginning to end, this disc is a mad fun house of brilliant melodies, superior songwriting, and a wonderfully twisted romp through the seamier sides of your beloved “pop” genre...I promise you, you have never heard anything like this group before and will not hear anything like them for possibly the rest of your lifetime...Take my word for it. Spottiswoode and His Enemies is THE album you need to own this year.”
The Independent, Chapel Hill NC, Gavin O’Hara
“A scintillating, eponymous debut...shifting effortlessly from cabaret and elegant waltzes to brassy Bond raves and raunchy rock ‘n’ roll.”
Flagpole, Athens GA, Joe Silva
“Wonderfully loose, lyrically spot-on, well-produced...the music hovers somewhere between the beat noir of the Lounge Lizards and the grim humor of the Jazz Butcher or John Wesley Harding.”
Casco Bay Weekly, Portland ME, Joe Harrington
“An embryonic mass of pleasant melodies, swirling madness, high artistic ambition, and suite-like grandeur.”
Creative Loafing, Atlanta GA, Roni Sarig
“While ranging from full-on rock to mellow folksy soul, Spottiswoode and band adorn their generally catchy and clever songs with consistently inventive arrangements.”
Snap Pop! Washington DC, Doug Mayo-Wells
“Eclectic, energetic, and arranged with panache...some of the best stuff I’ve heard this year.”