Most people’s experience of ‘spoken word’ music, outside of the Rap genre, is Jim Morrison‘s ‘American Prayer’. Beat Poetry, for this is essentially the format, is a hugely involving yet highly personal style which often resounds with the listener. This is most definitely the case with Enablers: a San Francisco post-Punk four-piece whose beguiling, occasionally fiery music is set to the poetry and narrative of frontman Pete Simonelli.
Staggeringly the band is in its fifteenth year, with new album Zones (Broken Clover (US); Lancashire & Somerset (UK); Exile On Mainstream (EU)) being its sixth full-length in that time. The early, eerie jangles of opener ‘Even Its Lies’ undercut Simonelli’s deep delivery, not unlike that iconic Morrison outing, but with an added gravitas that seems to hypnotise and raise the sound above the delicate chimes and deliberate beat. Similarly ‘Cha Cha Cha’ has that Country Rock ‘n’ Roll twang but cascades in a Lynchian chill: the words standing out like goosebumps in the shower; the odd rhythm exploding mid-track while maintaining a certain composure; Simonelli complementing the second half’s rampaging guitars with an impassioned, atonal delivery.
There’s a dramatic connectivity with every track: the emotional intensity of balladic Touché Amoré blending with the laid-back, wistful vocal of ‘Furthermore’; brief clashes of angry sound stirring the soul yet sticking to the heart with each jangle, each warmly-uttered word. The chaotic, Jazzy chord progression of ‘Squint’ underpins a more animated vocal, yet there are tender moments here too: not avuncular, not dictatorial, just…connecting. ‘Goon Seat’ displays an empathetic beginning, the instruments echoing delicious melodies while Simonelli murmurs low beneath them, each word resounding like a kick to the head with a velvet foot.
The guitars of Kevin Thomson and ex-Swans six-stringer Joe Goldring paint Impressionist colours along with Simonelli’s riff, reaching fulminating levels during ‘Bill, In Consideration’ while the angular yet tuneful chords contrast this wonderfully. These tones mark gorgeous Americana through ‘In McCullins Photograph’ but, with the remarkable stickwork of Sam Ospovat, they build and squall towards a blistering crescendo for what is arguably the high point of this tremendously affecting set. Penultimate track ‘Broke’ mirrors that fragmented, melodious picking: nearly dwarfing Ospovat’s wondrous syncopation then again swelling to euphoria; Simonelli’s sparing words so calm yet drilling into the heart.
The eleven-minute, closing title track is an exercise in quiet restraint and a treatise against modern society. The initial stages are atmospheric and downbeat, guitars chiming and building gently, the volume ebbing and flowing, a bass riff adding flesh to the bones and increasing the tension placed by that rich baritone. A second half of eerie ambience dilutes the power somewhat but can’t detract from this spellbinding album: a compelling listen from beginning to end and a supreme example of an immediate, magnetic form of expression.
8 / 10