This review is somewhat of a special one for me. 15 Years ago I was helping run the doors at the Pioneer Youth Club in St. Albans, Herts where fabulous bands such as Gallows, Your Demise and Enter Shikari were regulars. I remember being there for the sold out ‘Anything Can Happen in the Next Half Hour’ EP release show in 2004. So many people turned up for that night, we could barely manage the crowd. I remember the finger lights, I remember the human pyramids, I remember the hysteria. For these reasons, it’s hard not to be rooted in the ‘Take to the Skies’ and ‘Common Dreads’ Shikari era. All that however, is in the past, and we can’t live in the past, so let’s see how Enter Shikari are shaping up in the present.
Back in 2004, the Shikari Myspace page described themselves as ‘Post Punk’ but rapidly became known for their ‘Genre Terrorism’ (Term borrowed from Sonic Boom Six), eclectically smashing together sounds from across the musical spectrum in to a unique and successful style. Enter Shikari have always been clear on their constantly evolving sound, not content to be the one trick pony, and NITAEIP is no different.
That being said, there are familiar aspects to enjoy for the long-time fan. The opening track ‘Great Unkown’ opens with a piano riff that shortly morphs in to a dance riff topped with some deep, heavy bass notes and Rou’s iconic high notes. The opener does not disappoint with a serene melody interrupted by aggressive drum fills and guitar riffs and it sets the tone for the album. All in all, it is a slightly slower, calmer Shikari, more intent on making you dance with a smile by staying true to their earliest ‘rave’ influences. It may not chime with everyone, but there are plenty of toe-tappers in there. Another continuity aspect is the socio-political lyrics that accompany the fine tunes in the form of sharp vocals and provocative spoken poetry, something fans of ‘A Flash Flood of Colour’ would feel at home with.
Although written and recorded before the current Coronavirus crisis, their track ‘Modern Living…’ strikes an eerily familiar tone with its lyrics; ‘We’re Apocaholics, Drinking gin and tonics, Lying in the flowers, Counting down the hours’ which seems to characterise many of our lives at the moment. However Enter Shikari having a social commentary ahead of the curve is certainly nothing new. ‘TINA’ is my pick off the album as is probably closest to ‘classic’ Shikari. The guitar certainly comes in to its zenith chugging and chopping its way through a melodic syth loop that feels like its straight from ‘Common Dreads’. It has a good tempo, aggressive drum fills and a deep, fulfilling bass beat throughout. It’s almost like a club classic smashed with a post-punk anthem. Classic Shikari.
That being said, it is also devoid of some of the most recognisable Shikari motifs. There seem to be no shout backs or sing-alongs, few hardcore styled breakdowns and little to no screaming. These are a bit disappointing. In addition, there are some technical issues. If I were the Drummer or Guitarist I would not be happy with the production and mixing. The Drums, particularly in the first 3 tracks sound like a toy drum kit being played at the back of the room while the rest of the band are up front. I haven’t been so confused by a choice in snare sound since Metallica’s infamous tinny dustbin lid on their ‘St. Anger’ album. Its fiat, lacks high frequency and sunken in the mix to a point where it ceases to be the rhythmic driving force. Similarly the guitar efforts have been put so far back in the depth of field you have to struggle to hear it. On this record it would seem the Synthesiser takes centre stage and it certainly does the job well. The fact that Rou produced the album without external influence may go some way in explaining the sound disparities. There are also some oddities with ‘Elegy for Extinction’ is a classical composition you’d associate more with the Royal Albert Hall than Download or Reading. It is a well-constructed piece but it’s presence on the album is a tad baffling.
All in all it does feel as if they have drifted away from the heavier elements of previous albums with a sound that’s more (god forgive me for saying this) towards an indie influenced, synth pop mix. Now this is not a bad thing, the record is incredibly catchy and well written and incorporates these elements well without losing the Shikari sound. There are missing elements that most would associate with Shikari, but that is not the be-all and end-all. This album less orientated to the kids wind-milling in the pit and more in towards an audience who have grown with the band’s tastes and it does not disappoint. It’s not my favourite Shikari album but it’s by no means the worst. A few of the tracks will make it on to my fairly exclusive commuting playlist and I’d recommend any Enter Shikari fan give the record a listen and consider doing the same.