Let’s throw it back to 2007 when it was all about the gravity defying hairstyles, the black eyeliner, the skinny jeans and the arm aches you suffered from all the ‘MySpace poses’. Yep, the typical Scene Kid era. To be fair, this pretty much still sounds like me now. But anyways, this for me was the time that Enter Shikari entered the local scene, the days when house parties were the cool thing and the demo EP’s were guaranteed to be on the party playlist. You weren’t a true scenester unless you knew when to do those three specific claps at the exact right moment (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, go listen to “Sorry You’re Not A Winner.”) I’ve followed Enter Shikari through every album and each time, I’m blown away by what they create. Always managing to pull out something fresh and new, this fifth studio album The Spark is no exception to that. Co-produced with David Kosten, we hear a whole new spectrum of sounds which makes the album feel like a new chapter for Enter Shikari.
Title track “The Spark” sets the scene for the album as the captive synths pull you into what feels like some kind of time portal. Transporting you back to this retro electro era, it then spits you out into “The Sights” where it sounds like the opening credits for an 80’s futuristic movie. These synthwave atmospheres infused with modern twists bring a unique variation that’s unexpectedly interesting. “Live Outside” continues on with this 80’s electro vibe but glimpses of big beats mixed in brings you back into modern day reality.
I love how every track on the album pulls you into a different direction. Listening for the first time, you really have no idea what the next song will bring. Showing off his multitude of singing styles, vocalist Rou Reynolds also brings this diversity into each song. Many tracks have this monologue style of narrative as Rou speaks over the verses, it really draws you in and makes you pay attention to the lyrics as the sounds behind them captivate you. In tracks such as “Rabble Rouser,” Rou shows off his rapping skills as we are taken into a drum and bass style track; this is more of what Enter Shikari sounded like on previous albums and it’s going to sound insane live. The guitar riffs at the start are reminder that this is still a band behind the noise, not just someone pushing buttons on a mixer desk. The familiar line ‘Look what you’ve done to yourself’ taken from 2007’s “OK, Time For Plan B” reappears in “Take My Country Back,” altered to ‘Look what we’ve done to ourselves, we’ve really gone and fucked it this time’, continuing the political commentary that we all know is frequent in Enter Shikari lyrics. But I like how this throws a little nostalgia into the works, and older fans will appreciate it. The instrumental sounds over the chorus are powerful, and the rush of energy this gives really grips you.
The use of instrumental soundscapes to create an ambience that feels so emotional, is impressive. You really do feel sucked into the music and it feels like a more personal experience. One song that stands out for this is “Shinrin-yoku.” The instrumental aspect of this song is fascinating, the collection of sounds mixed with vocals that feel they are speaking directly to you, hypnotising you as you leave reality. ‘My lungs fill with air, I feel supercharged now’ are the perfect lyrics to match the feeling the song gives you. Stripping it back to minimal notes, the focus is all on the vocals in “Airfield.” There’s a gloomy feel to this track and the lyrics are almost puzzling at first. With a change of direction, the song moves into a more uplifting tone as the lyrics ‘You’re down on your luck, but that don’t mean you’re out’ put a more positive spin on things and the explosions of drums nearer the end help bring the song to life. This album feels like a very personal one for Enter Shikari; the lyrics expose some raw emotions which are intensified by the honesty and vulnerability you can hear in Rou’s voice. The song that demonstrates this the most is “An Ode To Lost Jigsaw Pieces,” as this track makes you feel quite overwhelmed with emotions.
I’ll be honest, when The Spark was initially released I had split feelings. But after listening back and really understanding it, I can now truly appreciate what an incredible album this really is.