Everything Everything ‘Arc’ – Review

28 Jan

It’s fair to say that a couple of years ago I wasn’t Everything Everything’s biggest fan. In my review of their debut album ‘Man Alive’ I complained that “the band use song titles that are impossible to pronounce, album art that is so insipid you’d never want to take it to a shop counter and time signatures that constantly try to trip you up. Just as you think you are getting into a song they will change the key in a jarring way and their lyrics are so abstract that the band post them on facebook and ask for people to send in their interpretations – which seems a bit pretentious for a pop group whose primary audience is the teenage NME faithful.”

They seemed to represent everything that is wrong with instantly consumed, ADHD, digital, post-post modern pop culture. Song titles like ‘Photoshop Handsome’ and ‘My KZ Ur BF’, pixellated album art and horribly fragmented rhythms were just the start of the problem. I didn’t necessarily object to the songs themselves (some of which were pretty good) but more the way in which they had been treated by the band, and the way in which we were expected to applaud them simply for being different – as if that somehow equates to innovation. It doesn’t.

You can tell something’s changed just by looking at the cover to their new album ‘Arc’. Surprising in its simplicity, it features the four faces of the band members staring outwards. They’re wearing earthy, wooly jumpers. They look distant, star struck perhaps, but calm and collected. This obviously contrasts with ‘Man Alive’s’ hyperactive sleeve and this new calmness is reflected in the music. You certainly couldn’t call these songs simple or chilled, but the band have simmered down enough to let you focus on the songwriting, which is both the record’s strength and it’s biggest weakness.

You see, now you’re not being distracted by all the superfluous elements, you’re actually able to hear the songs as songs rather than a series of sonic experiments. The tunes here are not as catchy as the ones on ‘Man Alive’ but they’re a lot more listenable, and a lot less annoying – which makes this a much better record in my opinion. In fact It turns out that Everything Everything are capable of writing tunes that grab your attention for the right reasons.  ‘Kemosabe’ is all over the radio at the moment and that’s great because it’s an unusual but poppy ear-worm. ‘Cough Cough’ is even better, a song that doesn’t take itself too seriously and experiments without alienating.

Lyrically the group still keep their cards close to their chest and I’m not a fan of their impressionistic style, however you can easily pick up on themes of distrust in technology, impending doom and a certain tongue in cheek humour. On the fabulous ‘Torso of the Week’ Higgs paints a picture of a gym keen girl jogging all over his grave. Cough Cough indeed. Things don’t always work out this well; the melodies are sophisticated but I’m still not a great fan of Higgs’ voice. The album is also considerably too long, or rather feels it (it clocks in at 50 minutes) and I don’t think I’ll ever be a massive fan of the band’s approach. That said, this is a good album and it improves on ‘Man Alive’ in many impressive ways. When I first heard them Everything Everything surprised me for the wrong reasons, but now I can admit to being surprised for the right reasons.

6/10

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