Earlier this year I sought press approval for popular UK festival ‘Slam Dunk,’ and was eventually rebuffed in my approach. I wasn’t necessarily disappointed to be missing the festival itself, but I was disappointed to miss the chance to see Enter Shikari play their classic debut album Take To The Skies in full. It was something I’d wanted to be a part of, because I value the record pretty highly.
You can imagine my joy then, when the record got a vinyl pressing in 2015; I was straight on that. First released in 2007, Take To The Skies was one of those records that dropped just as my interest in alternative music was passing from the realms of curiosity and towards a more serious engagement. It was in my early days of reading Kerrang! instead of football magazines, watching the channel Scuzz instead of MTV. Enter Shikari emerged during this transitional period, and they pushed me further into the world of rock and guitar music. In a way, that makes them a band very important to me, and over the years they’ve been a constant fixture in my iTunes and Spotify collections. I remember delivering papers at the age of thirteen to the electronic whipping of Mothership. If I close my eyes I can still see the house into which I slid the newspaper, just as the chorus dropped. White letterbox, cream door, and the sound of the dog running down the wooden stairs instead. It’s vivid because of the song, almost strangely so.
My love for Enter Shikari took a little while to blossom, so to speak. New to the possibilities of aggressive music I was a little put-off by Rou Reynolds’ fierce bark of “shit!” during the opener, and later was apprehensive of the barrages of sound that followed. It was sharp, antagonized and played with a hellishly spirited energy. The band’s mix of guttural proclamations and heady instrumentals seemed almost taboo, given that the closest I’d come to rock music at this point was the Busted CD I occasionally listened to. Coming into contact with Enter Shikari was like encountering an alien being, one which promised a new sort of experience. Looking back I find it almost comical that I viewed Enter Shikari in such a way, just a goody-two-shoes barely-a-teenager who wasn’t sure if he should be listening to heavy music. Man, if that kid could see me now…
I mention that Enter Shikari were different, and they were. Their implementation of electronics and other bizarre grit added an edge to their music that wasn’t present in the British scene at that point. As such, when Take To The Skies dropped it was almost revelatory in the way in which it pushed boundaries. Lead single Sorry You’re Not A Winner became an instantaneous underground hit, while follow-up Anything Can Happen In The Next Half Hour acutely and effectively blended trance aspects with snapfire, harsh verses and a hook-filled chorus. Nobody was doing what Enter Shikari were, and the band has since formed their legacy on being a little different. Second-half tracks Jonny Sniper and Adieu carry a funny sense of euphoria, the former upbeat while the latter is an astral ballad. I saw a tweet yesterday linking to a video of newlyweds dancing to Adieu at their wedding. Such is the appeal of Enter Shikari.
When I think of my favourite British bands I place Enter Shikari near the top of a long list but, as much as I enjoy their music, I’ve only seen the band live once – at The Masquerade in Atlanta, Georgia midway through 2016. It took me a while, but it was well worth it. When I listen to Mothership now, the images of that house on Langdale Close are intermixed with images of Rory Clewlow riding a speaker cab atop the American crowd. It’s a good memory tied inexorably to an incredibly good record.