Enter Shikari: Either You Know You're Oppressed, Or You're Asleep
Photo by Joe Dilworth
If there is anything you can say about Enter Shikari, it's that the band is a challenge just by its very nature. There's no genre, no label, no box that they fit comfortably in. Ultimately, they are that obnoxious zigzag Tetris piece that brings the whole game down.
Lots of attempts have been made to compartmentalize the group with terms like electronicore -- whatever the hell that means -- but none really fits them very well.
If you were forced at gunpoint to draw a comparison to another group, it would probably be to Chumbawamba. If all you know of that act is "Tubthumping," then you've missed out on some of the greatest political and anarchist music ever produced. Enter Shikari picks up that same torch and adds shades of Trent Reznor, dubstep and Eminem to the mix.
Their latest album is A Flash Flood of Colour. It's their third studio release, and it's already a No. 1 UK rock hit, proving that they are a band on the rise and that they should be watched carefully. It's a continuous and constant cry against what they see as an endlessly corrupt system, and easily one of the most purely political records ever to reach so high on the charts.
"Anyone who thinks they are truly free and not oppressed in this world is asleep," says singer Rou Reynolds via e-mail. "Today you are only as free as your purchasing power, i.e., how much dollar you have."
Alice Cooper famously called politics in music treason against rock and roll, and most bands that base themselves purely around a mission to fight the man rarely do the music industry any lasting benefit. That being said, there are many moments on Flash Flood of Colour that show incredible ability in the realm of both pop and avant-garde songwriting.
It opens strong with "System...," an amazing mixture of dance track and bizarre metaphorical beat poetry that comes together perfectly like a Biblical parable, combining just the right amounts of preachiness, honesty, anger and accessibility.
"From my personal experience, I can say that music does have a big effect on people and can change individual lives," says Reynolds. "I think for some people it can simply give them confidence, knowing that others have the same views and passion. For some, it can even encourage such drastic actions as a change in career path.
"Also, we have to remember, all art has a message. The mind-numbing music in the charts has a message, too: To conform, to consume, to be greedy, to be selfish, to be vacuous, to hold fake values, to be insecure, to be uninspired. We simply chose to have a different message."
The message is undeniable... as previously mentioned it's a challenge. To listen to Enter Shikari is to enter an arena where you are forced to hear and to defend your own position.
And yet, they manage to keep it personal. The downfall of something like the Cranberries' To the Faithful Departed was that Dolores O'Riordan was never really able to express a sense of personal pain in the politics she sang, certainly not like she did on the social tracks from No Need to Argue.
You can't listen to the sheer, Arthur Rimbaud-esque brilliance of the album's closing track "Constellation" without being intimately connected to the heart of the band that aches to see a better world. If they're radicals, so be it. At least they're honest radicals.
Their execution is engaging, no doubt, but Reynolds often does himself a disservice in some of his delivery. He's at his best when he's weaving webs of words, laying traps for a listener's weaknesses. He's at his worst when his own rage overcomes his subtlety and he descends into nu metal vocals that too often call to mind the very songs he abhors.
"I don't think there is anything to be gained culturally, intellectually or emotionally by the over-diluted, mind-numbing, clichéd expressions of love that is rife in most mainstream music, or the wet, soulless and repetitious 'party all night' drivel that is blared out constantly by radio," Reynolds says.
And yet, every once in a while he drops his rapier for a hammer, and it's just a bit too close to Papa Roach.
In the end, though, those moments are minor blemishes in what is otherwise a concise and powerful manifesto. Flash Flood of Colour is a fearless exploration of a digital landscape that never misses the opportunity to conquer the land held by oppressive regimes.
If you want something to sing along with in between sips of a drink, then you might be better off looking elsewhere. For those who want to face the enemies of the machine, Enter Shikari demands a moment of your listening pleasure.
"I think we are all actually victims of oppression on some level," ended Reynolds. "And if people don't like being told they are oppressed, then they simply don't like reality."
Enter Shikari plays with At the Skylines and Letlive at Warehouse Live tonight.
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