A Flash Flood Of Colour
, January 16th, 2012 08:19
You could imagine a documentary entitled Enter Shikari: A Warning From History Ignored that would make it Adam-Curtis-clear that we really should have seen this coming. The dark days of Limp Bizkit should have warned us of the powerful mutant potential that a crossbreeding of dance, rap and post-hardcore metal could have. We should have kept the emos away from dubstep.
That would be a disservice to the St Albans gang, though, who deserve some credit at least for being consistently ahead of the game. Their first album identified with lazer sights a territory to be owned between the neon hedonism of new rave and the impassioned emo community, leading to undeniably impressive gigs in which glowsticks ripped open by young teeth splashed across sweat-steaming circle pits. Long before Rihanna, Magnetic Man and Katy B dragged dubstep influences into the mainstream, Enter Shikari were flirting with them on their ranty, politicised second album Common Dreads. They pre-date the likes of Skrillex's melding of a metallic attitude and heritage with club-heavy womp and skronk, and they neatly bridge the divide between the rock crowd and the massive popular likes of Example, Chase And Status and, thanks to Roughton Reynold's Mike Skinner-ish delivery, Professor Green.
With Jonathan Davis' pronouncement on the release of Korn's bassbin-bothering new album that his band were "dubstep before there was dubstep", it feels like the moment has never been riper for Enter Shikari, and it's the job of A Flash Flood Of Colour to consolidate, to play to their strengths and tweak past missteps. It does so.
Where Common Dreads irritated with its speechifying, and previously, their bosh lacked subtlety in a sub-Hadouken fashion (debut Take To The Skies began with the sound of Reynolds screaming "SHIIIIIIT!"), this is a more considered affair. Opening track 'System' (stay with me, alright?) opens with light synth stabs momentarily reminiscent of Coldplay's 'Viva La Vida' as Roughton tells us about "a house in a field on the side of a cliff". You can probably imagine what happens to the house, and you could make a fair stab at guessing what the house represents. What you won't be prepared for, though, is Rou suddenly dropping his hectoring rap style to address you in a young, vulnerable voice, telling you about his childhood dreams of being a fireman or a doctor, before assuring us "these are such exciting times to be alive... it's in our hands now, our future" as the symphonic pop metal builds and builds and... drops away completely. It's a smooth, attention-grabbing and tone-setting opening, and from there, they nail it.
Rather than generalised damn-the-man grandstanding, there's specific and wittily delivered complaints. 'Arguing With Thermometers' takes aim at the international battle for the oil under the Arctic ice cap, seething "they plant their flags on the sea bed / Shackleton is turning in his grave... what happens when it's all gone? You haven't thought this through, have you boys?!". 'Gandhi, Mate, Gandhi' also shows they're self-aware enough to laugh at themselves: though it begins with an anti-capitalist Rou rant straight out of the New Internationalist-reading student rulebook (that said, his cry of "we're sick of this shit" is easier to countenance than it would have been a few years back) his screamo hyperventilation is cut short as his bandmates break in telling him to "calm down, mate! Calm right down... remember Gandhi, mate" before the song resumes in twiddling, skronking, bleeping, building and dropping fashion. It's admirably silly and admirably serious.
The empowering wolfpack howl of 'Search Party' is less diverting, and turns too far towards their emo pole without being genuinely moving, as does 'Stalemate''s dull soft rockin' ballad moment. The thoughtful closer 'Constellations' explores their soft side better, with a marvellously overblown extended train journey metaphor, and Roughton's touching admission that he's "lost, so lost, but you're the constellations that guide me", urging his fans into intellectual self-reliance. You'll even pardon him the words "with forgiveness as our torch, imagination as our sword" by the end of it.
Theoretically, then, their canny straddling of genres, their commitment, their reach and integrity (as a masively popular young British act on their own indie label) should make Enter Shikari darn near perfect. In practice and the long term of most, they're hysterically fun, but perhaps easier to admire in the abstract than really adore, unless you're a 17-year-old girl or bored at a festival. But on behalf of the world's demented 17-year-old fangirls and amused falafel eaters, and for trying so righteously hard, before I take you off my stereo, Enter Shikari, I damn well salute you.