When you’re a band like Enablers, a band that nobody else really sounds like, it doesn’t matter that you’re not making huge leaps from one record to the next. Enablers have been great from the get-go, and the fact that they sound so unique means they should feel comfortable with slowly refining what they’re all about. And that’s what newest album The Rightful Pivot is, a refinement of their sound.
Maybe only Oxbow are similar, and yet they sound completely different, but they’re also that sort of band where the frontman plays a pretty unique role, one where the instrumentation becomes more the backdrop for their narration than providing the music for them to sing along to. And I’m not saying that rarity makes what they do a “higher art” or anything like that – I love heavy metal and simple-as-you-like rock songs, and the genius of that simplicity – but there’s something different at least about the way Enablers do things, even though they’re also just a group of four guys playing guitars and drums, and performing in the same small venues as punk bands. To be honest, for all their uniqueness, it’s fine to think of Enablers as another rock band, but one that are progressive in the true sense of the word, one that are really doing their own thing.
Perhaps the most obvious thing that sets Enablers apart is Pete Simonelli’s ‘spoken word’ vocal style. Spoken word vocals are so often done badly, and that fact makes you realise how truly difficult it must be to get right. A hundred-and-one screamo bands have come close to totally putting me off otherwise awesome releases by throwing in overly sincere and emotional spoken word passages. For whatever reason, speaking over music seems to be a more difficult thing to do – it’s like there’s more of an expectation about the lyrical content because it feels like there’s less of a purely sonic point to the vocals. With spoken word, it’s not just taking song lyrics and opting for the easier route of not singing them; the words are laid bare, and when they’re so out in the open they better be good. Fortunately Pete Simonelli’s are; whether he’s narrating a street brawl or reliving an awkward romantic encounter, his voice has a vital sonic place in Enablers and he’s actually got something to say. And he even sings on a track on this new album! I assume it’s him anyway, either way there’s now an Enablers album out there with singing on it, and that’s a first as far as I’m aware. He also throws in a couple of accents when he’s speaking for characters like the “junk dealer, mechanic, and feral cat-wrangler” in Good Shit.
Another first is the much more noticeable use of effects. The guitarists use effects pedals on this album, and I don’t think they ever have before, and if they have it’s been so subtle (or I’ve been so unobservant) that I’ve not noticed it. Honestly, I was initially a bit unsure about the idea; I’ve always loved how well they’ve been able to handle dynamics and how much variety they’ve achieved just by being bloody great at the guitar. I kind of assumed they consciously rejected effects pedals as a sort of pure representation of their instruments, but maybe they just simply didn’t see the need until now. Whatever the thinking, the use of pedals is actually great – it’s done in a subtle enough way that it just sort of extends the reach of their instruments, the guitars just become capable of more variety, never straying into that territory of sounding like an over-produced robotic nu-metal nightmare.
For all the new ground, as soon as opening track Went Right kicks in it instantly sounds like an Enablers album, but the screw has been tightened – all the hallmarks are there, but they’ve been developed and decorated with a new batch of ideas and extra flourishes. It’s definitely the most lush and varied Enablers album to date, packing more forays into new territory and nice little touches than any of their previous records. Look and Solo, the middle portion of the album, are the standout tracks for me, and probably the most melodic, uplifting tracks out of the eight that make up The Rightful Pivot. There’s a good amount of variety in the material, and it’s all put together in such a way that it works as a whole from start to finish, the whole thing culminating in the furious, beautiful haze of Enopolis, a track that feels absolutely final, building to such a throng of frantic drums, swirling guitar, and lush chords that you feel nothing could feasibly follow it.
I couldn’t tell you what each song is about, one of the great things about an Enablers album is that you can listen to it over and over again, discovering new details and getting a better grasp of Pete Simonelli’s words each time. If you’re a fan of Enablers then you’ll love this album, it’s still undeniably them but it doesn’t feel like a load of recycled songs, or lean heavily on a tried and tested set of safe manoeuvres and melodies. If you’re not already a fan of the band then (chances are you’re not reading this review, but…) there’s no reason to not start with The Rightful Pivot. In fact, after a lot of listens over the course of a couple of weeks, I’m convinced this is the best Enablers album so far. I love this band, and I hope they’ve got plenty more records in them yet.
Scribed by: Chris Moore