Pele
Enemies
2002
Polyvinyl
8 tracks
46:39

For the first minute of the Enemies, we are presented with constant snare hits followed quickly by handclaps and later by what sounds like someone striking bottles of irregular shape. Disjointed and reversed guitars phase in and out before most everything comes together as a peppy, if not raucous, pop song ...but only for a moment until the song shifts into a cascading rocker punctuated by hyperactive drums. There are even more transformations; however, no matter how much the song changes, the pieces never cleanly make the puzzle. Pele always includes an extra acoustic guitar line, a barely audible, but entirely intentional, crackle, or an electric guitar that is allowed to sound feedback for only fleeting auditory glances. For the final two minutes of the song, instruments slowly drop out retaining only sparse cymbals and disjointed guitar. This leaves room for the extremely cut, undistinguishable tape samples. I believe I've reviewed entire albums with less variation than Pele has presented in their eight-minute opener, "Crisis Win."

The rest of the album seems to be variations on the same variations. Much like when they tell us "change is the only constant," Enemies repeats schemes (if not themes), always packing in a few extra items to distract, to keep themselves out of reach of those who assign musical labels liberally.

All this leads me to make some assumptions about the boys of Pele:

First, they are certainly jittery but don't necessarily have short attention spans - they just have to be doing something each instant. Sure, songs are packed with changes, but often the movements are allowed to evolve over somewhat extravagant amounts of time. The noodled guitar melody in "Hospital Sports" evolves through that song's entire seven minutes - at times on a geologic scale. Although listeners of more straightforward indie rock may not be willing to indulge the band, those who appreciate the subtle wind of jazz should feel right at home.

Second, I believe the Pele boys are never satisfied. There is generally a recognizable core to Pele's songs (although it may not be obvious except in their minimalist beginnings or endings), and it is on that core that copious textures and sounds are added. The banjo-esque guitar in "Hooves" is nice, but not evidently not nice enough, so layer upon layer upon layer is added to the recording. Occasionally, these elements are introduced slowly; other times they join in packs at a chorus, bridge, or one of the band's unexplained changes in song structure. Unfortunately, Pele often brings too many of these cooks to the stew. Songs seem to reach a fullness and euphoria well before Pele has stamped them complete. "Sepit" is a gem that is ultimately weighed down with excessive guitar fingerpicking, a running, not walking, bass line, and excessive drum fills. What was once brilliant, warm, and bright, becomes a chaotic showcase of musical ability and an experiment to discover structures' outer limits.

Although credit must be doled out to Pele for making an inventive album, the direction they've taken us isn't always agreeable. This awkward self-indulgence (both within traditional songs, and in the entirely separate experiments) is ultimately the undoing of Pele's Enemies and the brilliant tunes they've chosen to bury.