Enter Shikari return this year with “The Spark”. The fifth album to follow up 2015’s release “The Mindsweep”, a hugely bleak record that reflected the times in the context of the band’s signature style of pounding, bassy synths and heavy riffs. “The Spark” however follows that up with a much different approach. The music on this new album takes on its struggles with a newfound positivity in the form of bouncy and almost 80’s influenced synths and much less emphasis on huge heavy guitars and bass.
Take album opener The Sights (after a brief intro named after the record). Filled with really high energy backing vocals and an incredibly bouncy drum beat, the listener can’t help but feel uplifted by the song. This follows right on the lead single, Live Outside which is one of the bands strongest songs in years. Filled with bombastic synth, punching drums and a chorus that when tagged along with its Black Mirror-esque music video, is simultaneously terrifying and hugely enjoyable,
Take My Country Back is another great track, however it falls flat in the bridge with these backing vocals that sing a different melody underneath Rou’s vocals, and they really detract from the whole track, which otherwise would have been one of the strongest on the album especially with the brief but gorgeous trumpet outro.
A standout track on the album is Airfield. It starts out almost as delicate as a track from Sufjan Steven’s “Carrie & Lowell” in its first half before building into a massive anthemic ending. The softer delicate moment is something that the band have struggled with in the past but on this track, I think it is a craft they have finally mastered and this track is fantastic.
The influences the band show on this album are done at times obviously but tastefully. Shinrin-yoku almost sounds like an instrumental taken from Radiohead’s latest album with its delicate field samples, gentle bass drum and smooth guitars. And tracks like The Revolt of the Atoms channel a strong love for 90’s IDM artists, using synths that wouldn’t be out of place on an Aphex Twin or Autechre beat. However, the track takes on a swing that adds a human approach to what are very sterile and vacant synth sounds. Rabble Rouser takes on a harder electronic approach as well, but channels the style of Rou Reynolds solo techno projects, with minimal but hard-hitting vacant beats. It’s another fantastic highlight from the album.
Overall The Spark is the strongest album from the band yet. Frontman Rou Reynolds takes his traditional style of lyrics laced with brutal honesty and political awareness, and the band back it up with a freshened up version of their signature hybrid of electronic music and punk rock. This is an album that will keep their current fans love of the band alive, as well as attract a whole new legion of fans who maybe wouldn’t have embraced the bands heavier style on previous albums.