On September 22nd, 2017, Enter Shikari released their most ambitious and personal album ever, The Spark. However, many of the dedicated fans seem to think that The Spark is the end, worst album ever, going to end their career, and I am here to prove those doubters wrong!
Many fans of Enter Shikari will tell you that they absolutely love everything the band has put out, but there are a select few who I will call "Take To The Skies Elitists" or TTTSEs. They are the few fans who go around demeaning anyone who thinks any album other than TTTS is best. I personally find TTTS my favourite album because I like heavier punk music, but I still love all the other albums as well.
For clarity here is my personal ranking of the albums:
- Take To The Skies
- The Spark
- The Mindsweep
- A Flashflood Of Colour
- Common Dreads
I like that the band made a change of direction with the new album, they are trying to get their music in front of a larger audience and push their message of unity and working together to build up humanity. The pop sound of The Spark isn't that far off of their previous albums, songs like "Adieu," "The Last Garrison." and "Constellations" all have a radio friendly and pop-rock feel to them. But the main question I have sought to answer is why do these TTTSEs feel like the band is on a downward trajectory?
Some fans seem to follow the logic that if the band makes music that appeals to a broader audience and has a pop feel to it, they must have done it for the money, they feel like Enter Shikari sold out. But The Spark is the most personal album that the band has released, the album talks about how Rou feels when it comes to Brexit and Donald Trump, racism and other political topics. There are also songs that talk about social media addiction and mental health issues and dealing with the loss of a loved one.
During an interview with The Independent, Rou talked about how The Spark was the most personal album to date and that he bares his soul on the album:
“I don’t think I could have done it before this record,”“So much happened over those two years, globally and in my personal life, so before. I was kind of comfortable. I have a very finely attuned cringe muscle, I don’t like writing about things that have been written about a thousand times"... "Some of it is maybe even a self-confidence thing, feeling as though I don’t have much to offer in terms of art that helps other people. But seeing as 2015 was the year of hell for me, it wasn’t just that I wanted to write a more personal record, I had to. There was no way of not doing it.”
During this interview, he also mentioned how modern pop music comes across as very narcissistic and how his aim was to make his music come across as more personal and use it as a way to prove himself as a songwriter and musician.
“A lot of the stuff I was listening to was that lineage of big British pop music: The Beatles, The Damned, Joy Division and New Order,” he says. “In terms of songwriting I wanted to make a record that concentrated on lucidity, music that instead of being five songs in one – which is what a lot of our older stuff was – concentrated more on melody.
“I wanted to prove myself as a songwriter, and I’ve learned a lot in the last few years. The death of David Bowie had a huge impact – I did a lot of ‘Bowie-oke’ after his death and learned so much about my voice, about my range. Usually I only ever sing my own music unless I’m pissed at a festival”.
In their book, Dear Future Historians, Rou explains when talking about the track "Adieu" from their first album, that Enter Shikari is not a death metal band and as such, the fans should not expect every single song to have screaming and breakdowns. "We ain't a [email protected]#in' death metal band!" he states in the book.
Now, I understand that some fans have an emotional and nostalgic connection to the first Shikari album, I know that I do, but you shouldn't count the band out just because they decided to change their sound slightly, and I do mean slightly. On their previous albums there were always pop and electronic influences clearly there.
As I mentioned earlier, the band kept the political undertones very much alive on The Spark; "Take My Country Back" is obviously talking about Donald Trump, racism, and Brexit.
Take My Country Back
I understand that music taste is very subjective, but people need to understand that musicians are people, and people grow and change with age and experience. I am a songwriter too and the music I wrote at 14/15 years old is much much different than the music I write today. The music I wrote 7 or 8 years ago was angsty and emotional and very obviously written by a depressed teenager but now I'm 22 years old and the music I write is about politics, mental health, and the changes I've gone through in the last 10 years. Also, Shikari have been known to experiment with different sounds and genres in all their albums, none of their albums sound exactly the same; to the TTTSEs I have 2 requests, don't bully and pick on those who enjoy The Spark and say it's their favourite album, not cool, and it doesn't follow the message that the band has been pushing for years. Secondly, don't count the boys out just yet, they may go back to a heavier sound on the next album, maybe you'll come to love The Spark, just keep an open mind.