It takes 42 seconds for the Bloomington, Indiana’s Dreamers Of The Ghetto to arrive at the hook of “Connection,” the best song on the band’s debut album, Enemy/Lover. “When you’re gone, I know you’re with me,” singer Luke Jones bellows with a voice craggy enough to make Paul Bunyan blush. The line serves as both verse-mantra and chorus: He repeats the phrase more than a dozen times. It’s the sort of move built for stage shout-alongs, and the album finds the group joining a handful of indie acts who have in recent years crafted nakedly ambitious songs better suited to parks and polo grounds than underground clubs. Since Arcade Fire’s Funeral crossed over into modern-rock markets in 2004, summer festivals have embraced whiskey-throated guitar bands such as Band Of Horses, Mumford & Sons, and Kings Of Leon. Enemy/Lover is a successful application to the club, though that doesn’t make the album a complete success overall.
Sonically, Enemy/Lover plays like a crash course in the last decade of crossover indie and the ’80s anthems that paved its way: “Connection” opens with glowing post-punk revival synths, “Regulator” borrows the opening riff of Broken Social Scene’s “Stars And Sons.” Throughout, the group’s distortion-churned guitars-and-keys bombast lands somewhere between TV On The Radio and early U2. It’s a sturdy sound, though a generic one, but the band bets too heavily on the power of repetition: The verses are too often sloppy vehicles to get to another round of heavyweight hooks, an effective technique for the Coachella sun, but less exhilarating through headphones.
The subject matter doesn’t help much. In spite of the seemingly politically minded band name, Dreamers Of The Ghetto are more “Sex On Fire” than #OccupyWallStreet. On “Regulator,” Jones sizes up a romantic prospect (“I love your face / I think you’re striking”), while the keyboard horns of “Phone Call” announce the immortal line, “I want you, lover / lover, I want you.” Shakespeare they ain’t, but for those more concerned with pumping their fists next summer than parsing lyrics about orchards, Enemy/Lover is a compelling enough call to action.