The Zimmermans were one of the more interesting live acts around in the mid-1990s, a fedoras-and-horns noircore outfit backing a punk goddess who could sing. Lisa E performed songwriter-guitarist Jonathan Spottiswoode’s moody songs like a series of auditions, jumping from go-go girl to harpy to chanteuse like a kid hopped up on Halloween candy. In 1996, the Zimmermans broke up: Spottiswoode says he and his frontwoman, described by many as quite volatile offstage, too, were “burned out on the band and each other….How many bands can stay together longer than five years?”
Several former Zimmermans, not surprisingly, have lit out for New York. Lisa E migrated north almost two years ago, but left New York for San Francisco after six months, says Spottiswoode in a phone conversation from his 72nd Street apartment. He himself moved in August 1997 because, he says, “I’m lousy at self-promotion and sort of lazy, and there’s more people in New York who promote people. There’s more of a chance that things may happen in my career here.” About a year ago, the British expat started Spottiswoode and His Enemies, who play the 9:30 Club Saturday night. The band is split three and three between D.C. and New York residents; all but one member are former Zimmermans.
The 9:30 show is a D.C. release party for Spottiswoode’s first solo record, Ugly Love, which is neither cocktail nation nor jazz, but is smoky and jazzy. Studio wiz Peter Fox produced and played an array of instruments, including a rumbling Sergio Leon-esque guitar that enlivens the best tracks. Fox has kept the production spare and processed Spottiswoode’s limited voice so it evokes a ’50s music hall at the British seaside or a lounge singer negotiating his own sleaziness. Reviewers have compared the dark, occasionally misogynistic record to the work of Leonard Cohen, whom Spottiswoode cites as a major influence, and of David Bowiewhich is baffling.
Freelance producer Teddy Kumpel is currently overdubbing the first Spottiswoode and His Enemies CD, which he is producing on spec for release next year. The Enemies have played all over New York, and Spottiswoode says he’s pleased with the reception the band’s gotten. Nevertheless, he says uptown is often less enjoyable than Mount Pleasant was. “In New York, there’s a lot of ambitious people, and so you’re never socializingyou’re networking. Once I think I’m networking, I want to go home.”Virginia Vitzthum
Spottiswoode and His Enemies plays the 9:30 Club Saturday, Dec. 5.