What a hell of a couple of years it has been. It’s indisputable that politically and socially, there’s been an ever-increasing division and segregation, including the lead up and indeed the fall out of both the Brexit and US election results; the issues at the forefront worldwide are too many in number to list off in this review. But, as with any aftermath from dismay and times of darkness, it’s important to remember that there’s always something to salvage.
Indeed, Enter Shikari‘s fifth opus ‘The Spark’ embodies that ethos, both in the title it bears and the content it delivers throughout its 41-minute runtime. It carries a message of fluorescent hope within a world and in situations that at times are overwhelmingly being flooded by dread. It’s a spark to light the darkness, a spark for hope within dismay, and a spark to light a new beginning.
After said spark is ignited with the short instrumental title-track opener, we come to find that the fuse is leading straight into first track proper, ‘The Sights’, which sets off the rocket that lifts off and leads us through the journey of the record. It’s an upbeat affair, and one that sees the band talk about looking to the future with great optimism; frontman Rou Reynolds confidently affirms “Now I’ll boldly go / Into the great unknown”, clutching onto the excitement of something new, and the freedom to acquire and start something afresh.
Following number, ‘Live Outside’, keeps those melodies and hooks coming in thick and fast, despite its haunting lyrical content that talks about wanting to escape one’s mind, and feeling both physically and mentally trapped. Shedding that pop skin that surrounds the message of its innards may have you taken aback.
‘Rabble Rouser’ is certainly going to be a live favourite. Injected with some obvious grime influences in its instrumentation, it’s a song that would sit as comfortably on a dance floor as it would in a mosh pit. Since it dropped, people are still trying to figure out what “a face like a sack of screwdrivers” would actually look like, all the while the St. Albans troupe have embedded its chorus into your head to house itself there for days.
What’s obvious throughout this full-length is that, though not unchartered territory, ‘The Spark’ is an effort that sets its sights more on struggles of the personal rather than the wider scope that Enter Shikari are more renowned for. These messages are the most crystal clear on the more sombre numbers being showcased here.
‘Airfield’ highlights the need to keep your chin up. Reynolds extends a hand of hope to the disheartened, “So you’re down on your luck / You’re down / But that don’t mean you’re out”, and that even in the most turbulent of times, there’s something to hold on for, “When the wind’s against you, remember this insight / That’s the optimal condition, for birds to take flight” – clearly a Shakespearean notion that, sometimes, adversity can actually be something quite helpful and a catalyst to positivity.
Album closer ‘An Ode To Lost Jigsaw Pieces (In Two Movements)’ is similar in nature. It emits some David Bowie-esque qualities, and offers a grandiose touch to finish the overall bustle and optimism that ebbs and weaves throughout ‘The Spark’. In the song’s mid-section, the band stands down for some goosebump and hair-raising strings to enter and demand your attention, which is when Reynolds re-enters. His voice stumbles, chokes, and breaks as he almost mutters “This is tough, man / I’ve lost more pieces of my jigsaw / It don’t seem worth making now, man / They say you’ve gotta stay busy / I’ll keep, keep, keep my mind occupied on the here and now / ’cause you’re not with me” before the band re-enter a create a huge and epic climax that could easily dominate arenas worldwide, closing with the refrain of “We’ll cope somehow / We all cope somehow.”
Comparatively with their other releases, the topic of politics is taking a bit of a back seat, but it certainly rears its head in ‘Take My Country Back’. On the surface, it’s an obvious comment on their stance from the results of last year’s EU referendum, and its main chorus line was taken from a tweet by Reynolds at the time (here), but simultaneously it acts as a double-entendre.
‘The Spark’ is undeniably the band’s least chaotic and mayhem-driven record, instead opting for melody and cohesiveness over abrasiveness and eccentricity. The band are looking to the future, a constant message that’s being driven in its lyrical content, and following their 10-year celebration of their debut ‘Take To The Skies’ earlier this year, ‘The Spark’ acts as a record that is actively not wanting to take the band back, but aims to take them forward. This is their next step into filling those arenas that they’ve been slowly edging themselves towards.
When times are at some of their toughest globally, it’s sometimes easy to forget about the personal struggles. Though a cathartic experience for Reynolds, who by his own admission has a had a few rough years in his life as of late, Enter Shikari have offered that catharsis out in ‘The Spark’. It’s a spark for the disenfranchised, a spark for the down-trodden, a spark for those struggling, a spark for those who feel that there isn’t any way that things can get better, and a spark to illuminate and reveal a brighter future. Sometimes, a spark is all that’s needed to ignite a roaring flame, both lost and new, and ultimately, that’s exactly what the world needs.
Written by Zach Redrup (@zachredrup)