The Enigmatic Foe's   The Original Plan

The Enigmatic Foe’s new album The Original Plan (S/R) offers up contemporary rock and roll in the vein of Real Estate with other jangle pop influences, including distant echoes of primordial U2 with some mid-80s leanings via occasional electronic drums and synth-pop production. Tight, yet airy, the band creates a satisfactory wall of sound - mostly via the shimmering guitars of Josh Dooley (Map, Fine China) and Jared Colinger. Colinger - writer, guitarist and vocalist of the group - explains the topical nature of his tunes, “Sometimes we go to great lengths to be miserable and stay miserable. I once heard a story about a musician who purposely created strife with their spouse to have song fodder. I certainly thrive on creating songs out of misery. Anything else outside that topic seems a novelty.” Colinger, however, camouflages these sorrows with chipper, sparkly production and plenty of guitar chime. Frank Lenz’s (Headphones, Richard Swift) drumming provides a tight, propulsive groove to the whole affair.

It’s a long record which might have benefitted from some nipping and tucking; at 14 tracks, there’s not much left unsaid. However, the tunes are concise and listening does not become a chore. Colinger’s reedy vocals hunt and peck to find their melodic sweet spot, somewhat dubiously. While the twinkling and dreamy guitar approach is appealing, the band really creates an interesting and unique sterile-soul sound on tracks like, “Pavlovian Cement”, “Two Strong Words” and “It’s Not Who You Are”. While the shift in musical tone might feel somewhat incongruous, further development in this vein would be very welcome to these ears.

Otherwise, it’s the songs that highlight a 1980s pop sensibility that stand strongest. “Genesis” - the album’s closer - is one. “Darkness and Light” efficiently chugs along and features the following lyrics, “There’s a part of my life I’ve no courage to face / It’s destroying me, splitting me in two”. Those lyrics may sound dire, but I’ll be darned if the song doesn’t have a good beat that you can dance to! Similarly, “The Kids Are Alright” describes the thoughts of a jilted lover in the context of the defunct couple’s children’s visitations, “The kids are alright, but they’re asking questions/‘Do we still love them’ and if it’s ‘their fault’/I try to reassure them as I tuck them in.” Colinger’s lyrics cut deeply, but the music and melody both remain buoyant.

The 2-disc 45 rpm record was pressed at Pirate’s Press at their manufacturing plant in the Czech Republic (which no doubt is really GZ Media_ed.). It sounds great and is virtually noise free. Acoustic guitars on “Ms. Fortune and Her Mate” and “Ninety Nine Percent” have plenty of punch and gallop. The album’s soundstage is generous and Colinger’s vocals are big and well-focused in the mix. There’s perhaps a slight overfocus on high frequencies and shimmery shimmer to the detriment of some midrange frequencies. The album is available to purchase on Bandcamp.

Colinger explains more about the production of The Original Plan, “I recorded my vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, dulcimer at my home studio in Tennessee all digitally via Logic X. Josh Dooley recorded his guitar parts at his home studio in California using the same method as me. Frank may have done his drums analog to digital at his home studio in California. We all used a Dropbox folder to share files while I arranged and produced in Logic X. When it came time to mix, Chris Colbert did everything in analog at National Freedom before mastering digitally.”

A word, also, about the album’s fantastic cover art by San Francisco based artist, Eric Joyner . Joyner’s catalog of work focuses on retro-mechanical robots in unexpected contexts, many times in the middle of a mundane mid-century moment, often including donuts! In this album’s case, a single robot crests a pile of other broken metal junk and robots while hoisting a battered donut flag. The robot appears friendly enough, and the donut flag is comical, but the context of his actions - and the apocalyptic background - add a sinister dimension to the image. Colinger has created almost exactly the same musical juxtaposition, tension, and conflict on The Original Plan: one sure can tap their foot along to most of this record, but - listen too closely - and you might stop tapping and begin to tear up.

Tom L's picture

for mentioning Real Estate. I find that they remind me of the Feelies and the Bats, both favorites for when I'm in a jangly mood.