Time and time again, rock finds itself in the same old position: a band, beloved for their heavy roots, venture into calmer waters and are subsequently scorned for it. Enter Shikari’s latest single, ‘Live Outside’, is no different. Criticism targets a lack of guitars, a chorus which drags on and accusations that the band have (heaven forbid!) marketed the song for a wider audience.
All of this may be true, but why does it matter? Why is it a negative thing?
Enter Shikari have never been shy of taking a risk and writing something that does not fit within the same category as their debut album, Take To The Skies (an album written over a decade ago). Instead, they explore and evolve like any healthy artists should. This endeavour should not be pursued alone, however, as their fans should also be willing to accept changes and advance alongside their favourite musicians.
Genre aside though, what makes ‘Live Outside’ a killer song?
The song addresses issues regarding mental illness in all its crippling and restrictive ways, as well as the victim’s desperate battle to overcome it. The crunching guitar riffs and choleric vocal delivery, which are ubiquitous within Enter Shikari’s back catalogue, make way for driving synths and more carefully-crafted melodic lines. The result is a song that uplifts the listener into a realm of pure ecstasy – a healthy balance to the band’s constantly-infuriated commentaries on politics.
The accompanying music video lends further depth to the theme on mental health and adds an eerie surface to the upbeat music. In a modern spin on Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave’, frontman Rou Reynolds becomes a theatrical figure who transports mindless subjects out of their morbid realities. Through this marriage of music and visuals, Enter Shikari craft their art in order to help their audience break free from the imprisoning chains of mental illness.
But this message is completely overlooked by some of rock’s elitists. Many have received ‘Live Outside’ as a betrayal of Enter Shikari’s origins in metal, hardcore or whatever loose term that people want to throw at them.
This is certainly not the first time that rock snobs have dismissed an artist’s desperate cry on grounds of not being the same artist as they were ten years prior. Linkin Park’s most recent album, One More Light, released in May this year, received even greater criticism, despite featuring some of Chester Bennington’s bravest and most honest lyrics. The album was perceived as an empty and contrived capitalisation on popular music trends which could easily be replaced by any Top 40 artist.
In regards to ‘Live Outside’, it is perfectly reasonable to dislike the music itself – it is certainly not to everybody’s taste. To dismiss its message on mental health, however, on grounds of genre politics is truly baffling, particularly amongst rock fans who have recently seen their idols’ lives taken by it. Mental illness is not confined within a sound or by genre, it is everywhere. In hindsight, as we realise the danger of completely dismissing Bennington’s plea for its “contrived” appearance, let us not fall into the same trap of criticism, let us learn from it!
‘Live Outside’ is a new direction, it is a more pop-like sound and it is marketed for a wider audience; but these are all necessary decisions. More people need to be aware of mental illness and its numerous ways of manifesting itself. As a result, the dressed-up, fine-tuned sound of ‘Live Outside’ sets the perfect tone for this message; mental illness exists everywhere, even behind the most pleasant of façades.