Can [a]Enter Shikari[/a] ever really win? As the officially approved Most Incendiary Live Band In Britain, they immediately face a harder job than most bands in making a record that can measure up, something their debut ‘Take To The Skies’ roundly failed to do.
Also, in a world where it’s fashionable to bemoan the lack of bands engaging politically, most people tend to get annoyed when anyone actually does. And in their follow-up, ‘Common Dreads’, they retreated into burly grandstanding and [a]Pendulum[/a]-like racket. It was a deeply annoying record, but also one that established [a]Enter Shikari[/a] as one of the few bands in Britain really trying. And, working outside the system, alongside [a]Katy B[/a] and [a]Magnetic Man[/a], they’re one of just three genuine crossover successes from the UK bass music underground.
All of that surface tension lands [a]Enter Shikari[/a] in a pretty powerful position for their third – and, as the title promises fabulously, they respond to the challenge in explosive style to deliver something like their defining statement.
‘A Flash Flood Of Colour’ is angrier than they’ve got before, but also prettier, opening with Roughton Reynolds delivering a nursery-rhyme diatribe on ‘System’, likening the end-times of advanced global capitalism to negligent coastal engineers failing to protect a pretty house on a cliff. Dour times, so the St Albans tykes respond by setting their phasers firmly to ‘POP’. So while ‘Sssnakepit’ might push their guitar-dubstep to gnarlier places than before, it does so with a spectacular chorus bolted on. ‘Arguing With Thermometers’ is familiar, but opens up into the rousing march of ‘Stalemate’. ‘Warm Smiles Do Not Make You Welcome Here’ sees their hardcore-dub-rave mash-up flirt with stadium rock. From start to end, it’s an exhilarating ride.
With such a sonic barrage and so much shouting, the strokes end up needing to be pretty broad. And as wordy as most of this is (‘Gandhi Mate, Gandhi’ is quite spectacular in its ranting), the message is little more developed than ‘Bankers are bad, wars are worse and the two are probably not unrelated when you think about it’. “Back to the drawing-board boys/Accept nothing more than complete reversal!” squeals Roughton, like a frustrated ram, but hey, “I am an antichrist, I am an anarchist” was hardly Gramsci either, was it?
It’s only at the end, with ‘Constellations’ and the equally revelatory prospect of an [a]Enter Shikari[/a] ballad that they employ the get-out, and hold their hands up. Among the (actually quite gorgeous) twinkling and twirling, Roughton declares (actually quite prettily) that “I am lost, so lost”. It’s not quite ‘screw everything, let’s party’, but it is an admission, after so much gonzoid hubris, that the solutions might not be found down the disco, but at least the conversation can begin.
And it is there, in the uncomfortable reality of no easy, shouty answers, that we leave Rou, our bitchfinder general, drowning in those flash floods of colour and gazing up at the stars. It might look like a tragedy, but like the story of Pandora’s box, this fearsome record still concludes with hope.