Opening with a track entitled The Spark, and ending on one titled The Embers, you would be excused for expecting an incendiary forty-minutes from Enter Shikari’s fifth album, The Spark. Instead, the English quartet travels a more subdued path, delving into poppier sounds than their previous releases. Sure, the group’s penchant for political commentary is maintained in many of the songs, but plenty of time is spent on introspection too, spurred on by front-man Rou Reynolds development of generalised anxiety disorder.
The eponymous The Spark isn’t so much a track in its own right, but rather a fifty-second extended intro to the synth-heavy The Sights, and it bookends the album with The Embers, which is essentially the same track, but pitch-shifted down and lightly overlaid with the crackle of a fire and some ambient nature sounds at the very end. Live Outside, with its explicitly stated desire to “live outside of all of this”, presents anxiety in a glossy package that builds upon the indie-rock elements of The Sights. It’s skillfully executed but ultimately runs too long, belying the fact its core premise isn’t as fleshed out as it could be.
Despite appropriating a right-wing mantra for its title, Take My Country Back is thoroughly leftist, twisting things around to “don’t wanna take my country back/I wanna take my country forward”. Backed by a garage-rock aesthetic, the song finds its mark. Rabble Rouser meanders across styles, offering up a softer take on the electronicore previously deployed by the band. The Revolt of the Atoms is nothing if not dark and dystopian in its opening sounds, with contrasts well with the track’s actual sense of fun and absurdity, courtesy of dub-influenced guitars and ham-fisted rhymes. The refrain of “When truth gets left untouched/it accumulates like dust” ensures a political edge is maintained.
An Ode to Lost Jigsaw Pieces (In Two Movements) deftly utilises orchestration and restraint, demonstrating Enter Shikari’s maturity as songwriters. While lacking the heaviness that brought Enter Shikari to prominence, The Spark feels like a progression, not an abandonment, of what came before, and has much to offer the listener.