Enter Shikari: Common Dreads

There are over sixty million people in the United Kingdom and despite the vast differences in personality, ideas and emotions; we can still all band together in united fear. After all, what with the twin terrors of modern imperialism and our CCTV society, how the hell can we be sure that we don’t automatically get killed the minute we leave the house? Well, it seems that Enter Shikari are here to save us from the evils of our broken down society with latest album ‘Common Dreads’ released June 15.

The second installment from those angry, young St. Albans lads (who definitely won’t tidy their bedrooms) is crammed with a mixture of frantic guitar and maddening synths and ‘crammed’ is definitely the operative word. Even if producer Andy Gray hadn’t decided to turn every channel up to eleven, there would still be too much going on. At best, songs like ‘No sleep tonight’ and ’Wall’ just about work. There’s an uplifting little flourish of guitar and keyboards in the chorus’s and a verse and bridge that are fit for purpose. At worst, songs like ‘Solidarity’ and ‘Hectic’ sound like two opposing genres have vomited into a Petri dish and some terrible organism has crawled out. It probably has a long, black greasy fringe and is already hooked on pills.

From an album which began its maniacal crawl towards our hearts and ears in bassist Chris Batten’s parents shed, production quality ‘progressed’ when the band moved their base to Arreton Manor on the Isle of Wight. It was here, presumably where Enter Shikari once again picked up their guitars, drums, synths and sense of social injustice, emerging some time later with fifteen songs and a warm, fuzzy feeling of accomplishment.

There’s no point beating about the bush. ‘Common Dreads’ has a lot of problems. Firstly, it’s the production of the thing. While no expense was spared drafting the boys off to a some remote high-tech studio to record their ‘masterpiece‘, every single instrument gets lost in a vortex of intentionally accentuated noise. What’s the point spending thousands of pounds on the latest technology when the final product is layered to such an inaudible extent? It sometimes feels like the band have fallen into the age old trap of believing that adding more makes for a better song. Unfortunately, it really doesn’t. Secondly, it’s the mix of genres, something which Enter Shikari are no strangers to. It’s not that mixing different types of music is somehow wrong, on the contrary, it’s worked well for other bands and has produced some new, exciting pieces of music. But there’s a difference between an innovative idea and an album which sounds like you’re exactly halfway between the entrance to an under-18s moshfest and a binge drinking, happy-hardcore rave.

Of course, Enter Shikari do already have a rich fan base who will once again listen to the album and enjoy it. But does front man Rou Reynolds really expect these individuals to care about the current social problems which are now, apparently, plaguing society? Maybe he does and maybe they will but it’s not that likely. This album seems to work well with booze, pills and being a fifteen year old teenager. Three things which don’t exactly help rally the troops for an impending uprising against, well, whatever it is.
If Reynolds has something to say he should write it on a postcard and send it to Gordon Brown. He won’t listen either but at least we wont have to listen to ‘Common Dreads’ ever again.