Controlled Cacophony for a Brighter Commute
If an artist or band has only one feeling or idea that they’re trying to get across through their music, does that album have one sound throughout? Or do the songs vary and represent different interpretations or attempts at trying to say something more difficult to describe? Well, there are certainly no all-encompassing rules or trends in music, and there are plenty of examples of both types of albums. Enter Shikari’s The Spark is a collage of sounds (and styles) and a proud demonstration of the band’s versatility.
Album highlights include “Undercover Agents,” and “Airfield,” though there is no dull track to be found. The opener and closer are particularly short, therefore easier to pass over than the others, but both beg to be longer. They can’t please everyone. “Undercover Agents” is what an Imagine Dragons song would sound like if they spent less time sounding like battle/stadium music and more time being the cool opening act of some other pop group. The melody is well-constructed and has the greatest head-sticking ability of any of the numbers from this album. “Airfield” follows a more aggressive “Take My Country Back” (the most garage band sound the group exhibits) and offers a teary-eyed retreat from the otherwise fast-paced, driving tunes that preface it. It builds musically, adding more layers to the ensemble by growing in sonic size and building up from the sadness that opens out the song, ringing out happily and triumphantly in partnership with the bigger instrumentation. It’s perhaps the most emotional the album gets.
The inner child in all listeners gets a throwback soundtrack with the cartoonish (even a little reckless) “Rabble Rouser.” This tune has Danny Elfman and Tim Burton holed up in the studio crafting their next wonky animated story, featuring the controlled cacophony of a junkyard and excellent performing, especially by the group’s drummer Rob Rolfe. “Rouser” is up to interpretation and imagination but nevertheless earns nods for its songwriting.
Other tracks see a sampling of other musical styles: “The Sights” has a friendly indie spirit whereas “Live Outside” is a head-banging battle-cry. “Shinrin-yoku” is some combination of genres (a little unclear, to be frank), and “Revolt of the Atoms” stars an attention-grabbing robotic vocoder sound, potentially a nod to the iconic Daft Punk.
While it’s unlikely that Enter Shikari had just one message to share with listeners, their assortment of songs never gets too jumbled to the point where the tracks seem unrelated. Instead, each is its own materialization of when a Spark becomes a fully-fledged light. Let these lights illuminate the walkway toward any path necessary.