In 2007, no one has been as good as Enter Shikari at pushing down boundaries. The first one to topple was the divide between musical genres. Twelve months ago, we had never even seen a guitar band manage to get their fans move from side to side, let alone actually dance. This year, Enter Shikari audiences everywhere have been full-on raving while waving glow sticks in the air.
The next barrier to come down was the one between band and commercial market. Enter Shikari had spent three years being ignored by the record labels that so fiercely guard that space between artist and public.In summer 2006, however, this St Albans quartet packed out the Gibson tent at the annual Download rock festival in Donington Park; thousands of fans had discovered the band on MySpace and suddenly the industry wanted a piece of the cake. However, the band set up their own label, Ambush Reality, and released their debut album, Take to the Skies, themselves. Jo Whiley played them on lunchtime national radio and the record went to No 4 in the charts.
Eight months later and Enter Shikari have grown up. The fresh-faced youths that energised a crowd by simply smiling at them earlier this year have left the building. The music's changed as a result. Influenced in equal parts by the underground hardcore guitar and dance scenes, the band has always had an inherently heavy sound, but never at the expense of an endearing naivety. A gruelling touring schedule, as well as an increased self-awareness of their own greatness, however, has compromised the innocence that made Enter Shikari fun for all the family. There's a new darkness here, emphasised by the self-indulgent surrealism of the band's stage props, which include a wolf that talks dirty. As a result, the songs are now infused with an aggressive streak.
Tracks such as "Sorry, You're Not a Winner", which gets the whole crowd clapping along, and the Van Halen-mimicking "Jonny Sniper" still stand up as exhilarating anthems everyone should experience in the live arena. Equally, though, "Return to Energiser" misses its original sensitivity. The crowd scream the words back at the frontman, Rou Reynolds, but instead of controlling his emotion, the singer yells back.
Melodies are lost, and the band, who slip off the beat more than once, start to resemble headless chickens. Which was all very well when they still looked like they were at school, but this rougher, tougher version of Enter Shikari may need to start re-establishing the emotional core of their music if they want to sustain a long-term relationship with their fans.
Johnny K, Music writer, London
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