ALBUM REVIEW: ‘Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible’ by Enter Shikari

A new Enter Shikari album always feels like a curious case, because it always calls in to question how much further they’re capable of going. They’ve been five for five as far as their albums go so far, with each one making a significant development or even reinvention over the last (particularly true of 2017’s The Spark), and when that’s established them unwaveringly as one of the most creative and intelligent bands that UK has for a good while now, it never makes predicting where they’re going next or even extrapolating any current direction easy. There’s always a suspicion that burrows in that the loose singles they tend to release between albums might be what they’re going to stick to, given that some of their most memorable recent moments have come from them, but at the same time, Enter Shikari are the sort of band for whom their creativity needs a far more expansive outlet to flourish. It’s why a new Enter Shikari album always feels like a nice surprise; there’s really no need for it to happen at this stage, but when the reliability of it being good is effectively guaranteed, that’s a clear positive, even more so with the knowledge that it’ll never be lazy or contrived.

It’s a thought process that’s been grabbed with both hands on Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible, not only in what is one of Enter Shikari’s best full bodies of work to date – if not the best – but the album that arguably hones their creative impulses to the finest point they’ve ever been. This feels fresh and modern, with the legs to stand up in a mainstream space, but it’s also the closest that Enter Shikari have come to recapturing the unique, indie-adjacent disregard for form or trends since probably Take To The Skies. And while Nothing Is True… couldn’t be a different beast sonically, the thrill and excitement that came with hearing Enter Shikari for the first time hasn’t been replicated as sincerely since, and for a band now up to their sixth album, that’s not something to take lightly.

The great thing is that Nothing Is True… really isn’t too far removed from Enter Shikari’s usual headspace either, at least not thematically. For a band as inherently political and socially driven as they are, that was pretty much a given, but they’re always able to find interesting turns of phrase and imagery to make them their own thing (modern living….’s refrain of “We’re apocaholics, drinking gin and tonics” has already become a favourite), all while the underlying message is pretty recognisable. It gives a track like Crossing The Rubicon and its themes of persevering and pushing forward a lot more flavour, while the two-part Marionettes is almost like a Pink Floyd song with its images of an oppressed underclass rising against their oppressors by climbing the puppet strings that hold them down. There’s always great detail like that that makes Enter Shikari albums almost the ultimate populist political listening experience, and with content that only continues to advance and feel more prescient, it’s an album that truly feels ingrained in modern discourse and culture. The screeds about life online that have become so tiresome over time from countless bands feel a lot more lively in jabs against reactionary outrage culture and hollow posturing on { The Dreamer’s Hotel } and thē kīñg respectively, while the pressure’s on. and satellites* * operate in more vulnerable spaces to tackle societal pressures to succeed no matter the circumstance, and the prejudices that the LGBTQ+ community continue to face.

It’s a wide-reaching album, as is always the case with Enter Shikari, and while Nothing Is True… holds on to that sense of scope in its execution, it’s also surprisingly condensed and accessible, especially for the number of instrumental interludes that could easily be throwaway but actually have progression to them. The sombre, lonely piano and distorted vocals of Reprise 3 and the orchestra swell of Elegy For Extinction might be a bit fragmented, but the atmosphere they help foster never feels superfluous; if anything, they’re soldering together the layers of variety that Enter Shikari stack up here, all of which feel distinct but necessary and vibrant at the same time. There’s spiralling colour that whizzes through enormous pop-rock like Crossing The Rubicon and satellites* * that’s bound to sound phenomenal live, and leaning on the more electronic end of their sound like with the towering dance crescendos of THE GREAT UNKNOWN and the quick-stepping tension of T.I.N.A sounds completely contemporary without being forced. That’s never been an issue for Enter Shikari, but there’s such a revitalised energy and a sleekness to Nothing Is True…, produced to accentuate the light and colour within the mix to get the biggest possible result. Even Waltzing Off The Face Of The Earth (I. Crescendo) with its parping horns and very deliberate progressions plays a role in the context of the whole album, as the inflating build keeps growing until it reaches its discordant climax, the exact sort of bold move that even a more poppy Enter Shikari are liable to play around with. And that’s worth keeping in mind, because Enter Shikari are ostensibly within that more accessible circle now, especially after The Spark, but that’s never laid out as a limitation. If anything, Nothing Is True… seeks to push those limitations as far as it can, resulting in an album that’s custom-build for festival main stages and daytime Radio 1 slots, but still wears its innovation and progressiveness with pride. There was never a danger of Enter Shikari falling into line, but an album like this shows just how flagrant their disregard for doing so really is.

It’s the foundational reason why Enter Shikari continue to be one of the best bands the UK has even after so many years, built on by the way they continue to develop and reinvent themselves in ways that feel totally natural and, more importantly, brilliant. Nothing Is True… might just be another Enter Shikari album in that regard, but the fact it contains some of their most immediate, satisfying and catchy musical moments in years puts at an incredibly high standing. Again, this could be among their very best, simply for how it’s the sharpest they’ve ever sounded while never losing sight of the ambition and vision that’s always been so key for them. This has all the energy and flair of a band making their debut with the acumen of one that has years and albums of experience behind them, and when Enter Shikari are not only able to capture that balance but considerably improve it, that’s the sign of something almost inimitably special.

9/10

For fans of: Bring Me The Horizon, The 1975, Hands Like Houses
Words by Luke Nuttall

‘Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible’ by Enter Shikari is out now on SO Recordings / Silva Screen Records.

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