REVIEW: ENTER SHIKARI – “The Spark”
In a post-Funeral for a Friend splitting up world and a UK music scene in which You Me At Six, Bring Me the Horizon and most recently Architects have begun to dominate the landscape, Enter Shikari have remained one of the most consistently exciting and intriguing bands of the 21st century in terms of British rock. The band’s new album, ‘The Spark’, is soon to be released, following the group’s previous full-length studio effort, ‘The Mindsweep’.
As fans of Enter Shikari’s previous work will probably be aware of at this point, it is within their very musical nature to be naturally musically experimental, incorporating a multitude of different genres such as drum and bass, trance, and ID..M (intelligent dance music) into their sound alongside traditional alternative rock and hardcore punk. The record’s opening title track is a clear example of this as the 51 second-long composition includes no vocal on the part of frontman Rou Reynolds and is essentially an instrumental passage designed to ready the listener for what is about to come next.
Shikari’s undeniable tendency to compose brilliantly catchy pop-focused alt-rock songs remains true on ‘The Spark’, with “The Sights” containing one of the most memorable choruses perhaps in the band’s entire discography. “Live Outside” has been available to listen to for a while, and fits the vibe of the album more as a part of this body of work as opposed to a standalone song.
“Take My Country Back” could easily be interpreted as having its lyrical eyes focused on the political situation of the United Kingdom, depending on how you receive its message. Instrumentally constructed to make you want to run in big circles during its verses, the song races along with an up-tempo beat while at the same time being propelled by occasional background bursts of guitar and Reynolds’ signature motivating words.
“Airfield” takes the shape of a beautiful piano-focused ballad driven by incredibly relatable lyrics until its last moments at which point guitarist Rory Clewlow, drummer Rob Rolfe and bassist Chris Batten step up to contribute in their own uniquely respective ways. Imagine A Day to Remember’s “If This Means a Lot to You” with a distinctively Radiohead tinge to it to the point that I can imagine Thom Yorke singing it, and you’ll have some sort of idea as to what this track sounds like and why it remains a highlight of the album’s output not just this far but across the entire eleven songs.
The influence of hip-hop and especially UK grime cannot be overstated on “Rabble Rouser” considering the prominent rise to mainstream attention that the latter style of music has seen in the last couple of years. If by the odd-chance you like metal and those genres then you should find something to enjoy with this song, but just due to musical taste it’s not 100% my sort of thing. “Shinrin-yoku” immediately follows afterwards, and mainly relies on similar musical mechanics to what has already been established so far on this album, but that by no means underwhelms the power of Rou’s vocals that burst upwards through the layer of sound constructed by the other members of Enter Shikari.
“Undercover Agents” begins the journey towards the end of ‘The Spark’, and honesty dictates that in my opinion it is one of the more less-memorable pieces of music that has been recorded for this album. Opening with the lyric “and I say park your car and come up to my house – we’ll plan a revolution”, the song ventures into more instrumentally bouncy territory, but nonetheless fails to reach the standards of some of its album counterparts. Not a bad song by any means, but it feels slightly underwhelming regardless.
What I said about “Undercover Agents” is completely switched for “The Revolt of the Atoms” – a musically groovy and lyrically interesting song that feels like it has been positioned perfectly within the confines of this album and stands out as an example of the musical genius that exists within the minds of the members of this band. The variety of different layers that all compliment each other brilliantly while still being captivating as individual elements is a testament to this high praise.
The album’s last two songs “An Ode to Lost Jigsaw Pieces (In Two Movements)” and “The Embers” are dramatically different, with the former taking shape as a standard-length musical composition whereas the latter simply serves as an outro piece in order to bring the album to an appropriate conclusion in the way that bands used to do. In essence, it is a sensible and proper way of closing the doors on what has been another well-rounded and interesting Enter Shikari album.
Enter Shikari, over the course of their years as a band, have become one of those entities where you don’t know exactly what’s going to come at you whenever you listen to one of their albums for the first time. This example has remained in place with ‘The Spark’, with enough tranquil and softer moments to balance out the more up-tempo rampages that the band has made its name doing since ‘Take to the Skies’ all those moons ago. Regardless, if you’re a fan of Enter Shikari then this album is something you should absolutely check out, and I imagine you would anyway, but nonetheless this body of work deserves your time because it is every bit as good as you would imagine it being.