“No more self-indulgence. We’re coming for you narcissistic pop. We will replace you,” a frustrated Rou Reynolds tweeted last November. Donald Trump had just been elected President of the USA, causing the Enter Shikari frontman to express his anger with the lack of pop icons using their platform to promote the ideals of tolerance and unity that have been paramount to his own music since they released ‘Take To the Skies’, ten years ago.
Rather than waiting for a bigger star to spread the message, Enter Shikari have no choice but to become the stars themselves, thus bringing us to ‘The Spark.’ Because here Rou and co aren’t allowing themselves to indulge either, as they trim their brash hardcore influences in favour of a gleaming production and an arena-filling refinement.
From the energetic calls of “are you staying awake for the lift off tonight?” on opener ‘The Sights’, one can quickly identify a wide-eyed excitement from Shikari towards a more instantaneous songwriting approach. Even the band’s “woah-oh-oh-oh” backing vocals during the pre-choruses provide bursts of joy that are impossible not to admire. Following up with lead single ‘Live Outside’, a deceptively uplifting synth rock banger, the seeds are fully sewn for their pop infiltration.
Naturally, the group’s political and social commentary is unleashed across ‘The Spark’, as the frantic ‘Take My Country Back’s’ message of “Don’t wanna take my country back, I wanna take my country forward” sums up the band’s pro-union sentiment. Elsewhere, the Clash-channeling ‘Revolt of the Atoms’ is a protest against London transforming into an “ancient Athens” for society’s wealthiest. The most surprising lyrical target on ‘The Spark’ is Rou himself, who turns his struggles with anxiety and depression into beacons of hope on ‘Airfield’ and ‘An Ode to Lost Jigsaw Pieces’.
So, will ‘The Spark’ replace ‘narcissistic pop’ music like Rou said it would? With tracks like ‘Shinrin-You’ and ‘Undercover Agents’ testing listeners patience before inspiring anyone, and ‘Rabble Rouser’ recalling indie ravers Does It Offend You, Yeah? more than anything innovative, it’s not the complete takeover they were hoping for. However, there is enough ambition and grandeur fuelling this record that is sure to elevate Enter Shikari to the same playing field as pop’s biggest stars. Then the takeover can begin.
‘The Spark’ by Enter Shikari is released on 22nd September on PIAS/Ambush Reality.
Words by Andy Davidson (@AndyrfDavidson)