ALBUM REVIEW: Enter Shikari - A Kiss for the Whole World
St Albans's finest showcase what they do best and most uniquely on seventh album
For any band to create a distinct sound is an achievement showcasing the originality of the project. While not easy to succinctly describe, St Albans’s finest, Enter Shikari, over six albums and nearly 20 years have perfected their own unique sound.
Wholehearted vocals and dance-y electronica from lead vocalist/keyboardist, Rou Reynolds, set against nu-metal stylings from guitarist, Rory Clewlow, bassist, Chris Batten, and drummer, Rob Rolfe, is one way to describe Enter Shikari’s sound.
On their upcoming seventh studio album, A Kiss for the Whole World, the band stick to their usual trademarks, with a familiar dizzying array of sonic experimentation thrown into the mix, and the results, while mixed in places, are positive and brief – the album’s 12 tracks requiring a little over 30 minutes of your time.
‘A Kiss for the Whole World x’ begins with trumpets slightly echoing The Beatles’s ‘All You Need is Love’. Conveying a similar sentiment, the trumpets glue the song together alongside the laser-like keyboards and Rolfe’s excellent double-bass heavy drumming. It’s an outstanding start to the record with only the faint use of high-pitched autotune vocals detracting from its quality (though this feature is indicative of the worst moments throughout the album).
The blistering start continues with ‘(pls) set me on fire’ – the album’s first single featuring Reynolds’s videogame-like keyboards and crunching metal guitar from Clewlow which slows the pace of the song down to make room for an epic chorus. Reynolds screams during the verses and this is the song most influenced by the backdrop of the pandemic, with lyrics yearning for excitement during a period of constrained personal freedoms.
If you are a fan of ‘It Hurts’ – the second single, you are bound to love this album and the frequent use of autotune present in A Kiss for the Whole World. If you are less enamoured by the song, you are likely to feel a bit irritated by the autotune elsewhere. Falling into the latter camp, the song represents the first dip in quality on the album, despite the strong lyrics hinging on learning from your mistakes.
While 12 songs long, in reality the album comprises nine songs and three accompanying outros. The first of the latter follows after ‘Leap into the Lightning’ – a dub-influenced nu-metal track which morphs into ‘feed your soul’ – an 80-second drum ‘n’ bass effort with repeated lyrics from the former. These outros offer a breather from the high-energy of the album and ties the songs together nicely. There is also some lyrical refrains which run through the current of the album providing a cohesive identity when listening to it in one go.
‘Dead Wood’ makes a strong case for being the best song on the album – and a standout track in general – with its arresting string arrangement and Reynolds’s heartfelt vocals before disappointingly burrowing a path towards a crescendo where Reynolds’s vocals are bastardised by robotic autotune during the closing refrain.
‘Jailbreak’ sits fairly anonymously on the album while ‘goldfish ~’ is a mish-mash of metal, pop and rap with sinister verses and the chorus metaphor-heavy: ‘you are under my control, you’re the goldfish, I’m the bowl’. The latter shoehorns plenty of ideas into one song, with the lyrics unusually being one of the least captivating elements of it.
The one-two of third single ‘Bloodshot’ and outro ‘Bloodshot (Coda)’ contrast effectively with the former most effectively using autotune with the electronic nature of the song calling to mind latter-day The Prodigy and the latter providing a soothing minute of strings and trumpets to reimagine the original.
‘Giant Pacific Octopus (i don’t know you anymore)’ benefits from a strong ‘I don’t know you anymore’ chorus as Reynolds ponders the idea of identity and accompanying outro ‘giant pacific octopus swirling off into infinity…’ could be something Joe Hahn would spin on a Linkin Park record.
A Kiss for the Whole World is by no means a perfect record – in fact, it’s full of flaws and hamstrung by its autotune fetish – and yet it’s an album which flies by and persuades you to return for repeated spins.
As ever, Reynolds throws a jumble of ideas into each song and repeated listens unpack more of the individual elements which make up the kaleidoscopic whole. With perhaps more restraint, the album would be even better, but A Kiss for the Whole World is an enjoyable record showcasing what Enter Shikari do best and most uniquely.
A Kiss for the Whole World is out this Friday (21 April) via So Recordings