Review Summary: "Try again, fail again, fail better".
Enter Shikari approach the end of the world with a crooked smile and a bottle of Scrumpy Jack's. I don't mean the literal, biblical end-of-days, but something that often feels exactly like it, the end result of all those little tributaries which merge into a river of death anxiety, magnified by the general stress of living in a world like this. I'm saying just existing is a Herculean effort sometimes, so thank god a band like Enter Shikari is around, cutting that river back into tributaries with their indelible humour and unique brand of bangers.
The band's decision to entrust production of Nothing is True & Everything is Possible
solely to Rou Reynolds pays dividends, as they're a tighter unit than ever before, the ideal result of your frontman taking a hands-on approach to creating a record. It's there in the way the band lock into chugging pop-punk grooves on "Crossing the Rubicon" and "modern living....", or how two-part centrepiece "Marionettes" churns through glittery synthpop, clubby bass throbs, cut-up vocal hooks and a rousing, inflammatory crescendo in six minutes and change. Who else but Enter Shikari would chop-and-screw the lines "we're apocaholics, drinking gin and tonics" into an interlude leading into the delicate "the pressure's on.", alongside a brassy waltz from the mind of a flat-earth-truther and a strings-only track which sounds like a Disney theme for the apocalypse? No-one, and the melting pot of real heart, humour and political awareness that's been Enter Shikari's playing field is more defined than ever. From the second song, the band walk a delicate tightrope between apocalypse-chasing anxiety and tentative optimism; "fill me out a prescription for this existential dread", Reynolds sings like he's in line at the local pharmacy, but the pre-chorus finds its way to a measure of optimism in quoting Beckett's "try again, fail again, fail better". It's a shaky hope that defines the album from there on, and a record about how we're all in this together, but made to feel like we're alone, rings a little truer than the band could have anticipated at the time of its release.
Fittingly for an album opening with the question "is this a new beginning, or are we close to the end?", Nothing is True & Everything is Possible
looks forward to the natural endpoint of Shikari's genre-hopping – a borderline art rock kaleidoscope of sound, The Mindsweep
taken to the extreme – but simultaneously pays tribute to where they came from. Fans who think fondly on the Take to the Skies
era will find a lump in their throats at the Bon Iver-esque "Reprise 3", the iconic "and still we will be here..." refrain seeming to take on more meaning with every passing year. Not insignificantly, Reynolds leaves the "standing like statues" part of the mantra unsaid - it's up to the listener to finish the rest of that line, however they choose. And it's no mistake that all-time career highlight "satellites* *" and garage-punk banger "thē king" are slotted in at the end of the tracklist. The former combines the frenetic energy of the band's earliest days with the most effervescent, insanely catchy hook they've ever written, while the latter is a nostalgic callback to the Common Dreads/A Flash Flood of Colour
era, complete with horns and all three vocalists interacting with Reynolds' scream. Meanwhile, the propulsive album opener forms a nice continuity with The Spark
, an album ultimately about the ways anxiety can paralyse us from making decisions and keep us feeling isolated when we're not. "Fear put me in a headlock and dragged me back from the unknown", Reynolds sang on the band's finest track, "An Ode to Lost Jigsaw Pieces (in Two Movements)"; from there, "THE GREAT UNKNOWN" looks towards a global community, setting the stage for the album to explore how the connections between people are what save us from that slow, dreadful creep of paralysis.
The album's best asset is how it ties together these disparate musical threads with the strength of its songwriting. Having found a stunning depth and emotional acuity on their last release, Reynolds broadens his focus to the world without ever losing the raw feeling which stood out in bold against The Spark
's shimmering production. Enter Shikari close on an ambiguous note, reprising the sardonic "Waltzing Off the Face of the Earth (I. Crescendo)" as a gorgeous almost-ambient fade, transforming bitter cynicism into something like a prayer for a new world, a plea for the new beginning the first lines of the album anticipated. In ending on this note, and titling the album after it in reference to Peter Pomerantsev's book about the surreal new reality of Russia under the Putin regime, they invoke the spectre of politics at its most callous and corrupt, but refuse to only lament our world of information overload, option paralysis and confusion. Instead, they embrace its possibilities and find its limitless potential, which in many ways is the most stunning optimism of all.