Enter Shikari – The Spark



We are the dust on the stained glass windows, trying to comprehend the cathedral…

It’s been a long time since I bought a pop record but hell, it’s happened and it’s brilliant.

The Spark is a people’s album. Homely as a hot drink, 41 minutes hides a delicate touch, a new Shikari – one aimed at infiltrating mediocrity, grabbing the bar and flinging it back to where it should be.

Turning inward, The Spark is a far cry from the scathing political stirrings known of the St Albans lot. Swapping climate change for ponderings on mental health, there’s a quiet sincerity in all. Just why do we choose to put ourselves through it? In 2017, Enter Shikari finds voice in attempting to answer whilst reckoning with the heartbreaking truth that we’ll almost certainly never know.

Frontman Rou Reynolds’ quivering plucks in the final moments of An Ode To Lost Jigsaw Pieces is testament to the true heart of The Spark. A reflection of his losing both grandparents and long time girlfriend in the space of two years, it’s a bare-all we’ve rarely seen from the lads and Rou’s mourning is but the punctuation on a love letter to resilience and brutal honesty.

Those Shikari staples, British cheek and big synth bouncers, continue to trade blows like brothers, though deliberately downplayed this time is the ire. There’s no doubt that Rou’s yells and Liam “Rory” Clewlow’s rumbling breakdowns will be missed but if this is a new dawn for the foursome, a stirring series of falsettos, anthemic choruses and synth explosions are most welcome. It’s still Shikari and exemplifies why those who love this band do so to ends of the Earth. As with those ‘abusing music’s worthless genre boundaries since 2003’, Enter Shikari is a band confident in its direction, sights now squarely on making things better for all.

I’m thankful that The Spark has the last decade of mainstream narcissism but a blip in the rear-view. From the kind-eyed smile of The Sights to Airfield’s rousing lift-off, the boys have crafted a new timeline for pop – a wormhole from the 90s to now, skipping by all the pointless mirror gazing.

Yes, the people’s music has back its heart and good as new, we owe it all to those who tracked it down.

Enter Shikari – The Spark

Post-hardcore Retrospectus Pt. I



Warding off demons by day, pitching up in Camp Falsetto pre-dawn chorus, the combo sing-scream and one of post-hardcore’s many punk refurbishments begs a solid ‘yeah’ or ‘yeah nah’ when adrift new ears. A voice hitting all the right spots and just a modicum of the remarkable, punk’s younger, more articulate sibling can conjure quite a zest when given time. Likewise, if something well and truly misses the mark, all can turn to ash, leaving a wasteland and reputation for whining.

A decade plumbing these depths, it’s in the last few years that I’ve felt it decent to take a whack at how ‘nu punk’ works its magic, and if a new brand of old is worthy of a past punctuated by black eyes and mohawks.

A grand old grotesque, punk isn’t beautiful I don’t care where you’re perched. But isn’t that kind of the point? Post-harcore’s big swerve from Great Uncle Denim is the glimpse of galaxy, the wonder between all those safety pins.

In tandem, load bearers beauty and devastation keep captive those ears already attuned to a good bit of anger-babble whilst offering place for the grievers, the escapists and the dreamers. There’s still plenty of wall punching and wrenching out the copper wire but an insatiable lust-for-life to all.

An air of the irate, the continuation of protest tunes as old as the hills is undeniable, but those delicate new flourishes octave flutters, movement between soft and harsh, breathy ambience, and lyrics favouring working through turmoil personal or political add a mysticism to the mix. Gone is the idea of crushing life to dust. Why would you? It’s already gold.


Alexisonfire (Canada)

The streets are in distress, the sun suffocates behind darkened skies…


Credit to one particularly grim stint of pillowcase folding in Canada, I’m of no mind that my first shot would have gone down as smooth if not for the unexpected guidance of a renegade housekeeping manager and diversion to the blistering Ontario snowdrift Alexisonfire.

Falling in love isn’t something you brush off in later life. Years on, it speaks more fortune than magic and when you find your heart set upon, there’s bugger all you can do. From This Could Be Anywhere In The Worlda scream of frivolous desperation at the Toronto homelessness epidemic, Alexis had me over a barrel. Punchy but sincere, Dallas’ funeral-march wail, George’s gravelly barks, Chris’ gat and Jordan’s blasting kept warm a spot by the window so all could share in a world slowly tearing itself to shreds. ‘Homely with a glimpse of horrifying’ suddenly answered why I felt at ease in such rough hands.

Patience when attuning to new noise is crucial (I’d been served this lesson so frequently it now may as well have come plated, with chips), so even with top-notch haunts of the Canucks on tap and my introduction to the scene sorted, there was still a fair bit of unwanted binging to get more of the good stuff. To claim fondness for a painting when you’re really only struck by that one tree seems disingenuous, so for a wee while, fandom found stasis as I continued chasing the aftershock to that emotional avalanche wrought by the Canadians.

Post-hardcore Retrospectus Pt. I

Rise Against – Wolves

Rise Against WolvesThere’s something in your eyes that shakes me back to life…

Smacking a wall is all manner of stupid, yet natural as breathing when Wolves belts brain, boils blood and pumps adrenaline so violently you risk an impromptu surfing session regardless of your locale or penchant for board sports. Book-ended by two of the most rip-roaring rock tunes in years, to term Wolves ‘great’ is a write-off and far too stingy when it sits the best bit of punk rock in over a decade.

Rise Against are old crows at this point. Ranting since the early 2000s when the Bush administration was in full swing and America had entered phase two of the end times, the Chicago rockers’ message hasn’t been one of subtlety but wisdom, and all sandwiched between some of the catchiest, most well produced rock of the last couple of decades. Wolves is an easy argument for Rise’ place on the landscape. Politically charged and with a pantheon of hugely successful tunes, Tim and co. have yet to phone it in, striking a masterful mix of commentary and fast-paced feel goodery. In 2017, Wolves stays the course – sans moderation and needless evangelism.

The passion in Rise Against’ latest lets up for no one. Heavier past offerings, Siren Song of the Counter Culture and The Sufferer and the Witness, provided an if-but-brief bit of respite; four minutes harmonious and there to help catch breath (Swing Life Away, Roadside, Hero of War). In 2017, there’s no quiet strumming or ballad and the lack thereof is noticeable in just how knackering things feel by the close. Wolves‘ breathless assault isn’t in detriment to its flow and this manic progression may even be preferable for those looking to spike a bit more punk in their P&R. 

Explosive title track to the uplifting grin of closing number Miracle (maybe everything is going to be OK?), Wolves’ slew of lyricism, skin-spiking octaves and unfaltering energy speaks volumes to a band coming up on their forties. 2014’s The Black Market wasn’t a bad shout but bar decent belters The Great Die-Off and The Eco-Terrorist in Me, it didn’t shatter earth. Wolves is Rise Against back to their best: intelligent punk in a fierce and foamy swell. Yep, the world’s still on fire but at least someone’s there to watch the tide.

Rise Against – Wolves