Review Summary: Everything Is True and Nothing Is Possible
Reynolds and co’s apparent creative longevity seems owed, at least in part, to their healthy relationship with regards to what “Enter Shikari” means
. Not one LP in their storied canon has attempted complete reinvention, nor have they sunk into a trite repetition > self-parody > stagnation loop. Their secret to prolonged success lives, instead, within the saucy middleground: of building on their legacy without toppling it and - through measured, mindful iteration - succeeding at the elusive art of growing up. Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible
was the culmination of this story arc: a joyous celebration of everything the lads have thrown at the last 10 years, delicately balancing past and present whilst working in yet more layers of colour via symphonic flamboyance. Follow-up LP, A Kiss For the Whole World
, is an altogether different *cough* worse *cough* experience (eek).
Rather than picking one trick from the ES playbook and taking it in a new and interesting direction, as per the secret sauce recipe above, the group’s snappy (sloppy) 7th endeavor decides to do literally EVERYTHING all at once oh my oh no oh ahhhh(!): there’s the glossy pop sheen of The Spark
, late-00s wubb wubbs a la Common Dreads
, occasional smol-screms of both The Mindsweep
and Take to the Skies
lineage, and a nod to their newfound and much-loved orchestral tendencies. It’s a fustercluck, honestly, particularly when all of these various tastes, tones and timbres are squeezed into increasingly tight spaces. The CHORUS is now KING, apparently, w/ brevity and hooks and boogie-woogie-earworms becoming the band’s main, if not sole, songwriting structures. The whole hyperactive hodgepodge is funnelled through these restrictive musical tubes, congealing into a compact 30-ish-min package with decidedly mixed results.
First, the plus side: this is a very
catchy album. “Bloodshot”, despite its dated Bangarang
-y motif, is a monstrous banger front-to-back, entwining groaning chuggas and popcorn synths with piquant pizzazz. The same can be said of the equally PHAT opening bop - a fidgety, kaleidoscopic anthem of stadium-sized proportions - as well as the delightfully peppy “Leap Into The Lightening”, which currently lives rent free in the void between my ears. There is, however, a pervasive flatness here, or messiness, or wayward lack of focus, idk, something(!), that doesn’t sit well with my brain cells, especially when compared to the deft precision of the band’s last two outings. It’s in fundamental areas, too: lyrics are tepid, mixing cluttered, song-structures rudimentary and finesse generally lacking. It smacks more of a quick peck on the cheek than a generous sultry slobber which, following their 2020 opus, feels jarringly under-ambitious. This feeling isn’t universal, thankfully: album highlights “Dead Wood” and “Jailbreak” fucking soar w/ a vox:layered /// lyrics:quotable /// ALL:CAPS:BABY thing
, toying with texture and pacing and inter-album references avec cheek///charm.
This inconsistency makes sense, I guess. Rou has recently spoken of the “creative depression” he encountered during the lockdown period - of not being able to connect with the experiential juices that would usually motivate his limbs to splatter paint in the direction of the canvas - and of A Kiss For the Whole World
being the vessel through which he slurped up that sweet sauce once again. It’s understandable, then, that the byproduct of his reawakening feels intermittently/simultaneously underbaked/overdone. How else do you explain the sticky mess of “Goldfish ~”, a late-album cut that slaps together the chonkiest riff of the record with a slippery wet (shit) refrain, the holistic experience landing limp-wristed and conflicted. An equally muddled air seeps from all three flaccid interludes, each dialling in cute electronic/orchestral tendencies with a distinct lack of direction or feeling.
The answer, helpfully, is laid out w/clarity in faux-firecracker closer, “Giant Pacific Octopus (i Don’t Know You Anymore)”. Atop calamari flavoured riffage and a plastic-pastel-palette, Rou meditates on his rejuvenated creative droplets, acknowledging their unknowability and changeability, and coming damn close to acknowledging the LP as the identity crisis about identity crisis that it is. But, also: who fucking cares?
Consistent creative excellence is unobtainable and dumb, and A Kiss For the Whole World
remains eminently-listenable low-calorie fun despite its intermittent slip ups. It is well worth the time of any long-term band-fan, particularly those in need of their, uh, electrosynphonicorepop fix. Its shortcomings are also an essential proof of a theorem I've long thunk: that doing both more and less is, more or less, both more and less. How smart am I?! Don’t answer that…