Every band has that one album which everyone regards as their quintessential record. You know, the album you show a friend if they want to get into a band. For Enter Shikari frontman Rou Reynolds, 2020’s sprawling Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible was meant to be that album, a dizzying collection of music which summed up pretty much every aspect of the St Albans’ band’s music. It came out at the very start of the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning the quartet couldn’t even play the songs live for what felt like an eternity. As the world slowly returned to normal, Shikari camped out in the countryside to record a brand new record. The difference this time round, though? It was just them, an engineer and mother nature. It allowed the band to go back to basics, and in the process they ended up creating an album which should be considered as the absolute quintessential Enter Shikari album – even more so than its 2020 predecessor. A Kiss For the Whole World – the band’s seventh album, and the start of a new chapter – is the sound of a band rediscovering what made them fall in love with music in the first place. It’s an album full of upbeat, brazen and energetic songs which hark back to the best moments of their first three albums. With so much to pick apart on this album, we’ve decided to look at it one song at a time.
A KISS FOR THE WHOLE WORLD X
Enter Shikari’s last two albums each had their merits, but it takes A Kiss For the Whole World x a mere 10 seconds to blow both records right out of the water. The title track’s trumpet-led intro is bathed in bombast and vigour, serving as a brief precursor to three minutes of rampant energy. Frontman Rou Reynolds hasn’t sounded this youthful in years, with a mix of electronics and Rob Rolfe’s uptempo percussion forming the backbone to this brash opener. It’s a track coated in hope and optimism; the sound of a band ready to look forward with their chins up. This one also features the first of numerous callbacks to old Shikari songs (“you’re still standing like a statue”), a nice touch which aids the band in their quest to look forward without forgetting what came before.
(PLS) SET ME ON FIRE
We all know this one by now. (pls) set me on fire served as the album’s lead single, a taste of what fans could expect from the band. It didn’t hold back over the course three minutes, maintaining a fast pace spearheaded by bassist Chris Batten and his rhythm buddy Rolfe on drums. Reynolds’ vocals flitter between angry and introverted, with its larger than life chorus already becoming a fan favourite.
Second single It Hurts also needs little introduction. It’s urgent, sonically intriguing and monstrous in its delivery. In fact, let’s move on to the next song.
LEAP INTO THE LIGHTNING
It’s worth noting that there are very few calm moments on A Kiss For the Whole World. Leap Into the Lightning is the ‘softest’ track on the album, and even then it’s laced with dark beats, gnarly verses and flashes of downtuned guitars. The chorus falls in line with the likes of 2020’s Modern Living and 2017’s The Spark, but that’s the closest we get to hearing radio friendly pop Shikari on this record. There’s room for a guttural growl ahead of the song’s top heavy breakdown, which helps blend Shikari’s heavier and poppier sensibilities. This one will go down well live.
FEED YØUR SØUL
Instrumental piece Feed Yøur Søul – the first of three eclectic interludes – essentially serves as a bookend to Leap Into the Lightning, utilising hints of drum and bass, jungle and breakbeat alongside spacey bleeps and heavily altered vocals. The placement of the album’s three interludes almost makes it seem like they’re helping divide the album into three distinct segments. Based on that theory, Feed Yøur Søul marks the end of the album’s first ‘segment’.
Enter Shikari have always had a penchant for the bombastic and orchestral side of things, using it to great effect in the past. On A Kiss For the Whole World, Dead Wood is the designated strings-and-all track, starting off with just vocals and strings before delicately adding layer upon layer. Reynolds sings of self worth and desire, his voice riddled with anxiety, letting out an agonising scream which just about sums up how he feels. He experiences an epiphany of sorts halfway, with the song changing tack completely by way of swirling orchestral flourishes, vocoder vocals and pummelling percussion. “I want to feel the way you feel” sings Reynolds, his voice full of hope, yet still unleashing desperate screams in the background.
On an album which could be considered the quintessential Enter Shikari listening experience, Jailbreak is perhaps the quintessential song. It’s got everything a successful Enter Shikari song needs, musically and lyrically. No words can do the music itself justice, so you’ll just have to take our word when we say that Jailbreak’s rave-like melodies and brazen energy are goosebump-inducing. The lyrics centre on the idea of breaking out of patterns of negative thought, with Reynolds amping himself up to get through whatever he’s facing. Just before the song reaches its monstrous climax, he switches attention to the listener with a pep talk, encouraging us to “question everything“, specifically our own beliefs. It doesn’t get much more intense than Jailbreak. Enter Shikari haven’t sounded this exuberant in years.
If Jailbreak was the uplifting kick we all needed, then Bloodshot is the gnarly comedown. It’s the third single fans heard from the album, and it’s already become a live favourite. Its pitch shifted vocal hook is an absolute earworm, with the bass so deep that it could probably cause a tremor. The combination of harsh synths and booming alternative rock work well, forming a sonic duality of sorts which sounds the same but wildly different.
Officially this is classed a coda, but it serves the same purpose as the other interludes on this album. It’s less than 90 seconds of orchestral magic, not too dissimilar to 2020’s Elegy For Extinction. Not to lump all orchestral music into one pile, but it does carry a similar sense of grandiosity.
You’ll have to go back as far as 2016 to find the last time Enter Shikari made a truly heavy song in the traditional: screams, breakdowns, sonic violence. The two albums released since 2016 have been more experimental and diverse, switching out the heavy riffs for intriguing compositions and new sounds. On goldfish ~, we hear Enter Shikari dip more than just their toes into the much loved world of post-hardcore and heavy metal (with, of course, electronic flourishes). A dark swagger underpins the verses, with the chorus opting for a classic arena-ready approach. All of this builds up slowly towards a breakdown – and this is where the magic happens. “Are you starting to believe it?” asks Reynolds, the tone in his voice hinting that shit is about to go down. And boy does it go down, like the musical equivalent of a sledgehammer to the head (Reynolds’ guttural screams only add to this brutal climax). Enter Shikari have never shied away from discussing sociopolitical issues, with third album A Flash Flood of Colour probably the best example of this. In the years since, Reynolds’ songwriting has slowly become more introverted and introspective. goldfish ~ is the only explicit instance of social commentary on this new record, with Reynolds not holding back as the song builds up to the aforementioned brutal finale. “When people feel powerless they will rarely resist”.
GIANT PACIFIC OCTOPUS (I DON’T KNOW YOU ANYMORE)
The mania doesn’t end with goldfish ~. In fact, the tempo only increases on bona fide banger Giant Pacific Octopus (I Don’t Know You Anymore). It’s two and a half minutes of in your face percussion, punky guitars and a chorus catchier than the flu. “Does anybody even have a clue who they really are?” asks Reynolds ahead of the song’s larger than life chorus. It’s a question most people probably wouldn’t think to ask themselves. Do you have a clue who you really are?
GIANT PACIFIC OCTOPUS SWIRLING OFF INTO INFINITY…
The album comes to a close on a relatively experimental note. Giant Pacific Octopus Swirling Off Into Infinity… is the third and final instrumental interlude/coda/outro/whatever you want to call it, subtly calling the curtain on the album by way of chopped up beats and synths. It’s a world away from the band’s previous album closers, which have all operated on either an emotional or gnarly wavelength. This time round it’s neither; it’s calming. Peace for the mind, after eleven songs which were equally intense lyrically as they were musically.
A Kiss For The Whole World is the sound of a band looking forward without forgetting what got them this far in the first place. You could even suggest that it’s their best album since 2015’s The Mindsweep, which had the tough task of following up magnum opus A Flash Flood of Colour. There’s something very special about A Kiss For the Whole World. Not only is it the start of a new chapter for the band, but it’s also a collection of songs which put Enter Shikari right back where they started: just the four of them in a room. It’s a no strings attached, wild ride which only a band like this are capable of achieving. An assault on the senses, in the best way possible. They may be looking to the future, but they haven’t forgotten their past. A Kiss For the Whole World is due 21 April via So Recordings.