As Enter Shikari release their 4th studio album it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on a band who may not be to everyone’s taste, but have had an undeniably large impact on the alternative music scene for the last decade – something which seems all the more incredible when you consider they are still in their twenties. This release comes off the back of an incredible year which saw them send huge crowds at Leeds and Reading Festivals into absolute rapture.
For all these reasons, and despite never being a huge fan of the band’s actual musical output, I really wanted to like ‘The Mindsweep’, and so it gives me absolutely no pleasure to state that I really don’t think it represents where this band seemed to have the potential to be, and that it’s actually rather an ordinary album. These guys are of an age and level of experience where you really expect them to be pushing themselves to new levels but that is not yet being achieved.
The slightly ridiculously titled ‘The Appeal and The Mindsweep I’ reminds you of those silly names that Coheed and Cambria used to regularly come up with, and is a slow building number involving vocalist Rou Reynolds doing a politicised spoken word piece that builds into an explosive outbreak of synths and drums. Enter Shikari’s great strength has always been their ability to fuse metalcore, trance, drum n bass and a host of other ingredients and actually cook it all together effectively, and that is still very much the case here.
The problem is that we already know they can do that – and that is still all that they do. Structurally there is little to surprise anyone here, and whilst they have certainly grown as a band in terms of their live performances, (not to mention how well they’ve done to stay together without losing a single member since 2003) they still come across on record like a young experimental group who are yet to properly pin down what makes a great track.
Reynolds is a born performer and carries himself with unerring confidence on-stage, but lyrically he can be very jarring. A lot of the time it feels like he’s trying to come across like a scholarly smart-alec, ramming as many syllables as possible into his slightly corny poetic diatribes. It makes the lyrics seem less sincere and heartfelt and also a bit like he’s channelling Russell Brand.
A lot of the songs, such as the laborious ‘Torn Apart’ just simply are not very interesting. The kids who were listening to Enter Shikari ten years ago and jumping around like Duracell bunnies are now in their mid-twenties and want to rock out to something with as many brains as it has balls, but the band haven’t quite managed to evolve fast enough to keep up with them. This is a shame because I’m convinced that they have more in their locker than this.
It’s interesting that as the band jam out their closing number ‘The Appeal and the Minesweep II’ they briefly fall back into ‘Sorry You’re Not A Winner’, their defining anthem that made the world sit up and take notice. What they need now is a new defining moment that takes them to that next level – and ‘The Mindsweep’ isn’t that. I hope it happens for them.
‘The Mindsweep’ by Enter Shikari is out now on Ambush Reality/Play It Again Sam.
Words by Alex Phelan (@listen_to_alex)