Steve Goldberg and the Arch Enemies
No matter what happens to Steve Goldberg in his musical career, he can certainly be proud of one thing: This eponymous album with his band, the Arch Enemies, is possibly the most elaborate, orchestrated indie-pop effort Pittsburgh has ever produced.
Just take a gander at the instrumentation: Every possible symphonic instrument appears in the mix (as well as marimba, harpsichord, synths and some samples from a sound-effects library), ably played by Goldberg’s cronies at Carnegie Mellon, where this record was produced as his senior music project. And the result is no syrupy, adult-contemporary mess, but rather a tight, coherent suite of hyper-literate ditties with nods to Sufjan Stevens, Jeff Mangum and Stephen Merritt. For those not clued in to indie rock, I’ll make it easy for you: The Beatles and XTC.
On the one hand, there’s songs like “The Battle of Agincourt,” in which Goldberg imagines himself a futile Quixote-like knight-in-armor, bringing to mind the florid prose of the Decemberists. And then there’s the kind of eyebrow-raising wit that generates lines like “Julia, you’ve got a lovely uvula,” from my fave “Julia,” which pours on the glockenspiel, lush strings and cooey backing vocals. “Artichokes,” which borders on the nerdy archness of They Might Be Giants, includes the lines, “She’s got a way with crème brûlée / Her bouillabaisse comes to my aid.”
There isn’t anyone with a decent education to whom I can’t see this record appealing, whether it’s the bookish, poetry-scribbling high school waif in the flowery dress, or the middle-aged audiophile with his stack of Wilco and Paul Simon discs. So find this obscure pop gem before Goldberg abandons his adopted city forever. Much like Pittsburgh’s hordes of erudite, ambitious college graduates seeking greener pastures, Goldberg’s clearly stated his intentions in the song “February Third”: “I’m getting out while I’m still young.”