Album review: Enter Shikari, ‘A Flash Flood of Colour’ (2012)

(This is a review for New Reviews, also available here)

“The man who first noticed the inefficiency of sails,” wrote American iconoclast Henry Mencken, “was just as necessary to the birth of the steamboat as the man who built the pioneer steam engine.” St Albans electronicore outfit Enter Shikari, returning with a third album, are calling for a generation to sit up and notice. The prophetic opening of ‘System…’ and ‘…Meltdown’ is like a placard to the face. “Our generation’s gotta fight to survive,” Rou Reynolds sings. “It’s in your hands now, there’s no time”. Iconoclastic and smart, this album is a supreme chaser to the Lost Generation 2.0, to Occupy London, to our troubled times.

This is the sound of a band audibly expanding before you. The influences are thick and sweeping. There are fine borrowings of dubstep, electronica, drum and bass and hardcore. It is a rampaging phantasmagoria: sweaty punk, flashy post-hardcore, chunky post-industrial – the record is brimming with self-assurance, education and wit.

But what really stands out is what Enter Shiraki are not doing, who they aren’t teaming up with. Embodying the rhetoric of a disillusioned, kettled generation, they, like Mencken, know that something is diseased and broken. Like true iconoclasts, they attack mythologies – here, their victims are as much the bankers, arms dealers and corporations as their comrades. Imagine if The King Blues had read a book and you’re somewhere close. This is no glib call to violent class war or smash-the-rich idiocy. This is sophisticated, knowing – dare it, wise. Shiraki know that something is wrong, and they want all of us to fix it.

‘Sssnakepit’ is just such a call, a snarling ode to mass awakening. Like a dancing Sick Of It All, it cracks and crunches with gang vocals that hammer the idea of collectivity. On ‘Search Party’, this question has an almost academic detachment, a seeking innocence, a spluttering middle preceded by xylophonic tones, perfectly encapsulating the anger-innocence of the record. ‘Arguing With Thermometers’ pumps like The Bled with a funky, indie/electro verse. A veneration of progress, a defence of the environment: “Shackleton is rolling in his grave”. This innocence, this faux-naivete is tremendously funny, too. “We’re gonna invest into military hardware to find the remaining oil that left beneath the ice?!” asks Reynolds. “But what happens when it’s all gone?! You haven’t thought this through, have you boys?!”

Like Funeral For A Friend’s ‘Your Revolution Is A Joke’, ‘Stalemate’ is a revelatory, sobering piece of acoustic melancholy amidst the post-hardcore. “I’ve gone to the hills again” sounds majestic, its escape from the anger and confrontation of the first act is placed beautifully. ‘Gandhi Mate, Gandhi’ is furious and self-aware. It is a blistering rant, a resolution to fight, a swaggering confidence. “I do think I can speak for everyone when I say: we’re sick of this shit!” The young left may have found a brilliant band to speak for them.

‘Constellations’ is a breathtaking close to the record. Profoundly affecting, it’s a rejection of anti-capitalism like nothing – save PJ Harvey, perhaps – that musicians have offered for our contemporary crisis. It has something of Zarathustra in its hero’s return to the mountains and to solitude. And this matches the album’s tone of detached anger, its furious destruction of values and capitalism’s safeties. But let’s not get too carried away with the political energies. A Flash Flood of Colour is the band’s aural zenith. It is a remarkable piece of work, a plethora of sounds. Enter Shikari have found what they want to say and precisely how to say it – a rare gift – to ask, shout, scream fury but do it with smarts and originality. A triumph.