They say you can never go home again. But the pugnacious punk-pop trio The Enemy UK, which plays Popscene in San Francisco tonight, would respectfully like to disagree.
In April, after conquering overseas charts — and stadiums — with their political debut “We’ll Live and Die in These Towns” (issued in the U.S. on Warner Bros.), they returned to their native Coventry for a triumphant two-night stand at the 8,000-seat Ricoh Arena.
“Even the mayor of Coventry came out, because he wanted to give us a civic welcome or something like that,” says frontman Tom Clarke. “But we just said we’d rather go out to eat with him, so we took him out for a curry instead, and he really seemed to enjoy it.”
“He came to the Ricoh gigs, as well, but our drummer’s girlfriend’s little brother accidentally threw a pint of beer over him, and he didn’t look too pleased,” he says. “But we did warn his people not to have him show up in a suit.”
The mayor learned late what much of Britain already knew: Clarke’s Jam-edgy guitar work and scrappy, working-class lyrics are speaking to, and for, a whole new generation of disenfranchised English youth.
Cuts such as “Away From Here” and “You’re Not Alone” are really firing up the kids.
And Clarke just gets angrier by the day. At Popscene, he’ll preview still nastier numbers he’s penned for album No. 2, such as “Police State” and “Don’t Break the Red Tape.”
When the group started two years ago, the 20-year-old says, “New Rave was kicking off in the UK, and no bands were singing about anything, no one had a point of view. And when we wrote our first songs, we said ‘What’s going on around us? Let’s talk about the fact that most of our mates are out of work because they’ve closed the factory.’
“So we have political views, because I’d like to think that I’m not thick and I care about what’s going on in my country. And in the world.”
What about his homeland riles Clarke? He’s got a list: unfulfilled promises of New Labour, rising costs of fuel and housing, the proposal of nationwide identity cards.
Will Clarke himself go into politics some day? Maybe end up mayor of Coventry? He laughs.
“I have to say, it’s something that really fascinates me,” he says. “But politics is too full of creeps, and there are enough of those in the music industry already.”
IF YOU GO
The Enemy UK
Where: Popscene, 330 Ritch St., San Francisco
When: 10 p.m. today