Enter Shikari – ‘The Spark’

By Kathryn Black

There’s no other band quite like Enter Shikari. From the unmissable claps of ‘Sorry You’re Not A Winner’ and the scruffy video that came alongside them a decade ago, to their 10,000 capacity show at Alexandra Palace last year, their fanbase has grown and grown, and their ideas – exciting and unapologetic – seem never-ending. ‘The Spark’ cements their step into the mainstream and certifies the band as one of the biggest (if not the biggest) bands in the UK. Fun, poignant, ambitious and ridiculous in equal measure – it’s the album they’ve been working towards for years.

Bookended by ‘The Spark’ and ‘The Embers’, a lot gets packed into the other nine tracks. Bouncing along like 2009’s ‘The Jester’, ‘The Sights’ has a chorus made for singalongs, and as Rou Reynolds sings of space travel it transports us to a place of epic proportions. It’s clear that this is an album that’s not held back in any way; unstoppable, ready to take off and leave this planet if it needs to.

The use of poetic imagery is pushed to the forefront, and the use of creative metaphor lends an accessibility to the often existential and political messages that linger underneath. ‘Shinrin-yoku’ makes earthly landscapes feel other-worldly, a suggestion perhaps we need to notice the things around us before we worry about anything else. It provides a moment of clarity, forcing us to breathe along with its protagonist, as dancing notes and drops of water inspire thoughts of blues, greens and open space.

‘Take My Country Back’ subverts the dangerous messages plastered across news headlines in a racing blast of anger, its opening bars deceptively calming. “Look what we’ve done to ourselves/we’ve really gone and fucked it this time,” Reynolds sings. It’s a sentiment that many of us share, and this call to arms throws motivational fuel on the protest fire. Further energy comes in the form of ‘Rabble Rouser’ and ‘The Revolt Of The Atoms’, which marches along evoking similarities to Soft Cell’s ‘Tainted Love’.

Lead single ‘Live Outside’ sounds surprisingly upbeat for a song about feeling trapped, both physically and mentally. But it’s what Enter Shikari do best, finding hope and enjoyment in among the fury. There are moments of ‘Undercover Agents’ which sound like Friendly Fires and Klaxons threw ideas into the melting pot, juxtaposing intense emotion with a fairly relaxed melody, soft drums and harmonious vocals.

‘Airfield’ displays vulnerability in among the ferocity and strength. A repeated message of “you’re down on your luck/you’re down/but that don’t mean you’re out” is a chant to say in the mirror to yourself each morning, comforting in its solidarity. In among the dubstep sounds and screaming on noisier tracks, it’s easy to forget that Reynolds has a singing voice capable of both soft and gentle, loud and riotous, but in this instance it’s crisp and comforting.

‘An Ode To Lost Jigsaw Pieces (In Two Movements)’ journeys between defeat and determination as the song grows from quiet and unsure of itself to a brass-filled middle, and an unforgettably rousing finale. A moment of brutal honesty regarding mental health is musically tear-jerking, but portrays a far stronger message: it’s not just okay to be okay, it’s okay to admit it. The song gives a voice to young men who may not otherwise feel able to speak about how they feel, and for a group who still struggle with such a serious issue – listen and take comfort in the knowledge you’re not alone.

Excitement and energy tell stories of progress and change, with a foot in reality at all times. Bringing together the finest tropes of their previous releases, ‘The Spark’ will light a fire inside and leave you ready to take on the world. A vivacious release from a band who never falters, the sky –  no, the universe – is the limit.

KATHRYN BLACK

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