Review of Enter Shikari's album Common Dreads
Enter Shikari, the Herfordshire, UK four-piece are growing at an exponential rate. Growing in the sheer number of genres they're crossing, growing sonically, growing lyrically and this record, Common Dreads, is fantastic proof of that.
Following off the back of the well-received Take to the Skies, Common Dreads is not so much of a departure as a development from their previous work. Main vocalist (I'm not going to call him a singer), Roughton 'Rou' Reynolds is a total chameleon, jumping from Bruce Dickinson style Iron Maiden wails to Thomas Erak (The Fall of Troy) screams via Mike Skinner of The Streets. He sounds quite a lot like Colin Doran from Hundred Reasons at times, but maintains a raw, unproduced edge to his voice. And it works, augmented wonderfully by the textured instrumentation, painting an industrial sounding picture jumping through many themes- literary influences contrast with Arctic Monkeys-style specifics: drinking White Lightning and the such. There's also a lot of politics here, but, it's not something that you'll really notice that much, because there's just so much going on.
The Jester, coming late in the album, is a perfect example. Pendulum-style jungle dnb approaches an almost humorous interlude perfectly mixed with horns and strings held together by Reynolds' best Skinner impression as he darts about all over the song, screaming one minute, singing the next. If it sounds confusing, that's because it is. But if you listen to it a few times, the genius behind it all becomes clear. These are the kinds of songs that are written almost inconceivably- I can't possibly imagine how they began laying this all out in a studio.
And somehow, they keep it all up for 51 minutes. The only misstep is the intro- and only because the spoken word poem has an effect on it that makes it sound like the guy who gave the Power Rangers their orders. The last track, as well, Fanfare for the Conscious Man, could be taken by a cynical critic as a little too much. 'Multi-national corporations compete in the arms trade' and so on, and it's a bit too much for me personally, but I don't really understand politically slanted music. Yes, Gordon Brown is a cock, and so on and so forth. Saying that, I love Rage Against The Machine and this track exudes the sort of power that made them transcend politics.
There are some obvious singles on here, Juggernaut - obviously a single as it's being played on the radio as I write this, some others too like No Sleep Tonight. Its to their credit that the band are able to make these tracks fit in on such a varied album. Nothing feels out of place here.
Altogether, it's a drum'n'bass filled hour with some incredible variation- the band aren't afraid to take risks, that's clear, and for almost 100% of the time it pays dividends: it's a rewarding listen time and time again. This is so far the album of the year for me, but for sure it won't be for everyone. Screams are everywhere on this album and they will put some people off, but for some this will be a great way to get acquainted. I can't recommend this enough.