Once in every blue moon, a band comes along to smash stereotypes, stamp across conventional boundary lines and tear down the invisible walls that divide musical genres. They come to unite the masses who hitherto were segregated by the subjectivity of taste, and in doing so the band reserves a space for itself in future encyclopaedia alongside terms such as “seminal”, “avant garde”, “groundbreaking” (and other music journalism clichés).
Enter Shikari are not that band.
Now don’t hear what I’m not saying. There’s much, much to admire about this quartet of whippersnappers from the sprawling hub of musical mayhem that is, er, St Albans. Selling out London’s Astoria without a record deal is a factoid that has been bandied around ad nauseum but it is no less impressive, while then producing and releasing their debut album independently speaks more of the band members’ self-confidence than any big-gobbed, self-aggrandising Gallagher-esque soundbite ever could.
No, it’s just that all this talk of Enter Shikari being the band who mix hardcore (as in punk) with trance (as in not punk) is all a little bit overblown. Sure, some of their legion of gig-going fans may wave glow sticks in the air like they just don’t care, and keys are a material part of Enter Shikari’s song construction, but when the keyboards parp cheerfully as they do in the likes of Labyrinth and Jonny Sniper, you’ll do well not to head for your dad’s early Genesis and ELP records rather than the truly “groundbreaking” electronica-tinged politico-punk of Refused (say).
But enough of the carping. Even without the added nuances and depth added by the lead singer Rou’s tinkling of the electronic ivories, Take To The Skies is a more diverse and rounded selection of songs than many a hardcore album. The eponymous album opener and Return To Energiser are urgent slabs of metallic hardcore, with discordant sections that pleasingly recall Norma Jean (though with nowhere near the level of chaotic brutality, obviously).
No Sssweat, on the other hand, is a turbocharged piece of old skool punk where the “gang” vocals that are littered througout the album come into their own, while the singing-meets-screaming of Mothership and Anything Can Happen In The Next Half Hour… are “emo”-tional hardcore as the term used to be applied rather than the inaccurate, indiscriminate catch-all it has become (see My Chemical Romance).
In the main, it’s good stuff, with a surprising level of guitar crunch (given the hype), some memorable tunes, anthemic but adrenalised beatdowns and enough youthful exuberance to paper over many a crack.
Not all the cracks, mind. Some of Take To The Skies is anon-emo-us; Adieu’s desire to be sensitive and heart-rending through acoustic guitars and lyrics such as “I cherish the loss” is slighly wistful thinking; and occasionally, the football terrace chants get a little overwrought. However, there’s still enough here to suggest that Enter Shikari won’t go the same way of the only other unsigned band to sell out London’s Astoria… The Darkness.
Just in case, enjoy them while you can.