There’s one key ingredient that makes Enter Shikari’s music so special: the lyrics. The band’s lyricist Rou Reynolds is a talented lad and knows how to deliver a punch line. That the guys don’t shy away from “difficult” topics has played a huge part in their success as a band. They just speak the mind of a young generation that wants to change this world for the better.
Reason enough to share my very own favourite lyrics (so far) with you. Of course these are only my own subjective interpretations of the songs. Rou could have meant something completely different with them and I’m sure there are many other beautiful interpretations that make sense as well.
The Paddington Frisk
To be strung up on a leafless tree,
Where everything dies and nothing grows
Hanging like moulding fruit
One last dance whilst you decompose
This track which was released as a single from the Rat Race EP is a genius reference to capital punishment in early modern London. The expression “dancing the Paddington Frisk” referenced the popular execution site Tyburn which was a village in the Paddington parish. The legs of the hanged usually twitched before death especially if the hanging wasn’t executed properly. Believe me, you don’t wanna know the details of poorly executed capital punishments in the early modern ages. Fittingly, the song tells the story of a guy being hanged and it’s morbidly hilarious.
Why I love the lyrics: Once upon a time, way before GENRE IS DEAD! was founded, I went to university and made degrees in some funky subjects: Ancient History, Modern History, American & English Language and Literature. One of my main research fields was capital punishment in the early modern age and the different execution techniques. Let’s just say that it was very special and completely unexpected when one of my favourite bands released a song that deals with this super special subject. It also shows just how versatile Enter Shikari are in their song writing.
Never Let Go Of The Microscope
We’ll never let go of the microscope
No matter how callous the shells
We’ll harness the heat of the sun
And we’ll burn you out of fucking existence
This track taken from The Mindsweep is a rallying cry for the sciences. Heavily influenced by the denial of climate change and other archaic world views, the song delivers one punch line after the other. Especially the verses are super sharp: “Like Socrates I only graze on the slopes /Of the summit of my own ignorance /Like Hippocrates I can affirm that the method of science /Is an appliance that emancipates us from dogma”. I really love how the verses build up this huge energy to completely let it go in the brutal bridge (see above). It perfectly delivers the frustration of having this massive resource of science while certain people of power hold back humanity with their inability to broaden their minds.
When the wind’s against you, remember this insight:
that’s the optimal condition for birds to take flight
Now the wind’s against you but don’t give up the fight
Taken from the brand new album The Spark, Airfield is an inspiration for everyone who is going through tough times. While the song delivers the despair of the narrator in an utterly heartbreaking way: “I wait to depart, an inconceivable aught when you’re no wings and all elbows”, its main theme is hope. The lyrics make clear that there’s a way out of misery: “You’re down on your luck, but that don’t mean you’re out”. A message that couldn’t be more important in current times. “Airfield” is also the track that truly delivers the core meaning of the album title: the “spark” of new life after feeling dead inside during a long phase of depression.
Your skin and bones
Heart and mind
Are made from the remnants of stars
This one off single was released in early 2016. It is based on the fact that the only reason we see signs of existence in the universe is good timing: “Redshift is a song about bloody good luck! On the grandest of scales! Literally,” says Rou Reynolds, “Our universe is expanding faster and faster and a few trillion years from now, everything will have sped away from us so fast that all we would see when looking out from Earth is empty space. We would deduce that we were totally alone in the universe. A lost sheep. The last and only biscuit in the tin.” While the lyrics of the track sound cliché on the surface, the strength of Redshift is that it manages to change your perspective on your place in the universe. Also, the imagery of stars sacrificing themselves to create life is so beautifully sad that my heart implodes whenever I listen to the song.
One True Colour
But oh how rich the soil
How wondrous the upheaval
It’s time to embark
In “One True Colour” Enter Shikari show how simplifying a complex idea can change one’s perspective. It’s also a textbook example of genius song structure. In the first part, Enter Shikari show by comparing the spectrum of religions with the spectrum of colours that the concept of one true religion (or one true colour) is small minded and thus false. The one sided indoctrination of children by the family and the social system will lead to a state of feeling lost when the individual suddenly realizes that “there’s no one up above to hear me yearn”.
In the above cited passage, the narrator sees the truth. It’s the upheaval of his mind. Life itself is an adventure and there is no such thing as a higher entity or a spiritual meaning of life.
Oh there’s so much to explore; there’s so much to absorb
And then the atoms that you borrowed
They are returned to the cosmos
I’ve always felt deeply connected to “One True Colour”, probably because I’ve always grappled with religion. I haven’t been brought up with “one true religion”, which caused me to look into the options myself without having come to a satisfying conclusion yet. I can truly relate to the line “Someone has whipped the carpet from beneath my feet, Someone upturned the furniture in my mind” – a feeling that is just repeating itself whenever I think about the meaning of life and such shenanigans.
If you want to learn more about Enter Shikari’s lyrics, consider getting Rou Reynolds’ book “Dear Future Historians“. No, this article is not sponsored.