by Jack McGinnis
After a mere two years since the critically acclaimed and chart topping The Mindsweep, Enter Shikari has dropped their fifth full-length album, The Spark. This arena rock and pop infused album is both a departure from previous works and a milestone in Enter Shikari’s career. Accessible, anthemic, and audacious describe each individual track on the record, but that does not mean each tune is not properly sprinkled with some of Enter Shikari’s greatest quirks.
Hooks that sparkle
“Live Outside” , “Rabble Rouser”, and “Undercover Agents”, the album’s three singles, truly capture the unique soul of The Spark. The first single, “Live Outside”, is possibly the most pop-influenced song the band has ever devised. A deceptively chipper, yet bold chorus embeds itself into one’s brain, making an impromptu singalong just a natural reaction. This, held up by bouncy electronics and punchy acoustic guitars, highlights the band’s mastery over the ‘art of the chorus’.
However, that is not to say that this album is all upbeat pop tunes. In fact, every song shows the band’s singer/lyricist, Rou Reynolds, confronting a real and tangible feeling or emotion, which is often anger or frustration. Take the songs “Take My Country Back” and “Rabble Rouser”, the latter of which is the album’s second single. “Take My Country Back”, in particular, kicks in with fast-paced and aggressive rhythms backing a furious Rou Reynolds repeating, “Don’t wanna take my country back / I wanna take my country forward”. The verses of the track run with this aggressive pace as Rou begins barking his hyper-political pro-unity passages, culminating in an explosive chorus. Again, the chorus is a monolith of melody and a masterwork of memorability that is just begging to be the rallying cry of an arena of Shikari’s fans.
“Rabble Rouser”, on the other hand, exhibits almost none of the qualities indulged by “Take My Country Back”. Instead, the song presents itself as an electronic/rap hybrid infused with a bit of grime-step influences. This mish mash of genres melds into one of Enter Shikari’s best mosh-pit inducing tracks to date, with yet another masterful and catchy hook to boot. That’s really the theme with The Spark. There is not a single chorus on this record that feels dull or contrived. Every one of them is meaningful and anthemic, although that may not be wholly a positive thing.
The Spark can feel like it’s repeating itself by the time the eighth track, “Undercover Agents” rolls around. Its, again, catchy and accessible chorus seems almost like it’s retreading ground just trampled by the tracks “The Sights”, “Live Outside”, and “Take My Country Back” that came before it. Even the record’s mellower moments featured in songs like “Airfield”, “Shinrin-yoku”, and “An Ode to Lost Jigsaw Pieces” share a similar structure in which they conclude with a hulking section of the band chanting some key lyrics.
However, none of these songs are bad by any means. In fact, they all exhibit some of the best orchestration and lyric writing in the band’s history. It’s difficult not to get choked up in the latter half of the second to last track, “An Ode to Lost Jigsaw Pieces”, as a pained Rou musters up some powerful and relatable phrases like, “And this is tough, man / I’ve lost more pieces of my jigsaw / It don’t seem worth making now, man”. The emotional delivery of those words, combined with the closing instrumental piece entitled “The Embers”, puts the band’s maturity at the focal point as the album slowly comes to an end.
“Take My Country Back”
“An Ode to Lost Jigsaw Pieces”
“The Revolt of the Atoms”
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Abandon All Ships
Featured image from Alternative Press
‘The Spark’ may seem like it starts to run in circles as the 'mammoth chorus' motif gets used like a welcome mat. However, that welcome mat is there for a reason and is certainly put to good use here. Each song is an arena rock anthem wrapped in a lyrical theme magnificently explored by Rou Reynolds. This is a milestone for Enter Shikari. While previous albums have teetered on the border of too obscure or obtuse, ‘The Spark’ is accessible, addicting, and welcoming just like the prophetic mat from before.