It’s Friday afternoon and Enter Shikari are currently in the lead for the race to top the UK Album Chart this week. Tom Doyle explains why we need A Flash Flood of Colour to reach #1.
“You’re a Communist, you’re a fucking Utopianist. Ah, here come the immersive labels.”
These are words spit out by Rou Reynolds on ‘Gandhi mate, Gandhi,’ the track that led the charge of Enter Shikari’s third studio full length A Flash Flood of Colour. It’s an outtake that demonstrates an acute self-awareness that you suspect many 26-year-olds in chart bothering acts lack. Y’see, once you’ve been labelled a political band, it’s a hard straitjacket to wriggle free from and how best to deploy their burgeoning sense of social injustice seems to have been a question in the minds of Shikari, and chief lyricist Reynolds since they burst onto the scene in 2005 backed by the most clamorous wave of hype that many of us could ever remember.
Shikari’s initial success was nothing short of a phenomenon: the second band to ever sell out the sadly demolished Astoria without so much as a record deal in place, they were the ultimate word of mouth band of the mid-2000s and when Take to the Skies finally emerged, it did so with such energetic force and joie de vivre that even the scene’s cynics had to admit that they would be more than just a flash in the pan. Yet listening back to that debut there is very little to suggest the politicisation that so characterises A Flash Flood…. The highlights of the former are moments of spontaneous handclap japery and songs about Quasar whilst the latter is awash with sensitive, if somewhat oblique metaphors about the systemic political, economic and social failings which continue to blight our society.
So where has such vitriol suddenly sprung from? The band’s detractors can and have argued that it is simple bandwagoning to align themselves with increasingly popular leftist movements to allow them to continue to rake in profit on t-shirts and tickets. Yet there is an acidity to Reynolds tongue that you fancy is hard to fake. Indeed, the specificity to the lyrical barbs which litter A Flash Flood… indicate that this is more than just headline grabbing FUCK YOU I WONT DO WHAT YOU TELL ME posturing – the “Shackleton is rolling in his grave,” refrain from anti-Arctic oil exploration ditty ‘Arguing with Thermometers’ a notable example. In fact you could easily argue that bands which one might commonly think of as having a more ‘sophisticated’ political edge to them like The King Blues are currently plying fodder with considerably dimmer wits (‘We Are Fucking Angry’, whilst an emotive sentiment is perhaps not the most carefully constructed manifesto ever to hit the airwaves).
Of course Shikari are still guilty of the odd bit of bone-headedness. Hollering, “WE’RE SICK OF THIS SHIT,” to voice your distaste at the ramping up of the global arms race is the sort of manoeuvre that lets the mainstream press write you off as Sixth Form politics for rowdy but ultimately apathetic youths. The obvious response to this holier-than-thou critics being, “Where are all the pop, rap, R&B and soul singers dealing with these issues in a more sensitive and multi-dimensional way?” Something is better than nothing.
In fact, even within the frame of UK rock music there are relatively few bands taking the bull by the horns and addressing the globo-political meltdown which we all face. Contemporaries like You Me At Six are content to plough a furrow of pseudo-sexy claptrap with choice lines from both debut (“You Love, I love you too. Below the waist I’ll start charging you.”) and recent outing (“Well I’m your friend, friends with benefits.”) offering little to inspire those looking for anything beyond the most superficial thrill.
By contrast, Enter Shikari are, like many of their fans maturing into adults who are being rudely forced into confronting the political landscape around them. Their music is a reaction to a society in which youth unemployment is sky high and we are staring down the barrel of about a dozen environmental catastrophes. Rather than ram an opinion down the throat of all and sundry from album one they are a band who have developed and are still developing a voice of their own and moving with the culture and times around them. Perhaps not everyone who listens to A Flash Flood… will pick up on its many and varied messages and equally not everyone who listens to it will agree with everything they say, BUT it is truly a sign of the times that a band can challenge for a UK #1 album on such an undeniably political platform and with a record which loses none of its bounce, vim or gut-punching power as a result.
In many ways Enter Shikari are the biggest punk band of our generation. Not in the traditional – or superficial – boots-and-braces sense but in a far deeper, more meaningful way. They react to that which they see around them with genuine emotion and are questioning that which many of their fans will find troubling in the world around them. They are doing all of this independently of labels and traditional industry structures which they have long since eschewed in what can only be described as a real show of self confidence and straight up ballsiness. Musically they remain one of the most interesting propositions in the UK and the only band globally who mix multitudinous rock and dance material which such effortless and smooth charm (an area in which they are oft imitated but are yet to be beaten).
It is all too easy to sneer at a band who try and make some sort of statement with their music, especially when they do so within a framework which could be considered populist by some. But the left wing ideas espoused by the likes of Enter Shikari require unity rather than segregation and so it makes nothing but sense to try and get them out to as many people as physically possible. Through their developing politics and their mashed up approach to musical composition, Enter Shikari are blazing a trail which hopefully many young bands with their heads in the news and their hearts in the right places will emulate. They are not the most punk band in the UK and they are not the biggest band in the UK but they are the biggest band with a punk mentality in the UK at this moment in time and as history shows, its always better to try and make a difference than make no effort at all.
A Flash Flood Of Colour is out now on Ambush Reality and Enter Shikari still have a genuine chance of reaching #1 in the UK Album Chart so if you’re thinking about buying this album, buy it now.