15 months away from the spotlight has done nothing to reduce the mystique around the stunning enigma that is Everything Everything. Before we are treated to a brand new selection of songs, being debuted here in balmy Exeter, Stella Martyr treat us to a lesson in indie intellect....
Hailing from Exeter, via Birmingham, Manchester and Scunthorpe, they produce an, at first blush, quite doleful soundscape with sampled drum beats to the fore. However, these moods are shortly (en)lightened by sweetly poetic lyrical excursions (‘white and blue and yellow meet the sky / as their teardrops fall to earth’).
The minor chords and churning discordance continue, sounding like a less scabrous version of Campag Velocet, mixed with early 80’s post-punk and echoes of a mellower Mark E Smith. The lead singer’s crooning fills the room on ‘Sugar’, floating atop textured layers of treated guitar flotsam – ‘ Ice cold water invades my night / Cut me out in little stars’ he intones, as the musical swirl of chords becomes progressively more hypnotic. Soon the song, this doomed anthem, gently collapses in on itself, like the stars themselves shrinking and expanding.
‘Concrete Kisses’ (ace title!) displays retro , 90’s- style fuzzy melodies, searching beneath the surface, fumbling a little, a semi-declamatory, half-spoken vocal standing out amidst the motorik rhythms. It is all strangely compelling and I am reminded by the multi-layered guitar lines of the ever so glorious Kitchens of Distinction (some compliment).
Stella’s frontman has physical presence, yet is endearingly polite, like he might take you round the back for a harsh word and end up hugging you instead. The verdict – an Alice in Wonderland-like curiosity, worth further investigation and so different from the usual indie landfill clogging up our lives - all the better for that. Keep eyes wide and hearts open.
Manchester’s super finest bound onto the stage, resplendent in non-matching, orange-themed garb and the grid goes buck wild with a total energy splurge. Guitars attack with hard, angular riffing , offset by rumbling bass, leaving traces of math rock in the highly-charged air particles. A brand new spanker reveals – WOW! – a guitar solo (all 10 seconds of it…)
‘Kemosabe’ exhibits minimalism with choral interjections, shuffling into clear focus, backtracking with Vampire Weekend in the sidecar. Guitars chime, ring ring ring, a sweet assault on earlobes. Another fresh tune from the forthcoming June release is toned, clipped and features whistling, a burst of post-punk funk, with keyboards and guitars in lurid tandem. Lyrics mix the personal with the universal – ‘What was my password? / Where the blazes did I park my car?’
The nuggets emanating from the tiny stage glow golden; we revel in their audacious genius. Everything Everything embrace an uncertain future, stand straight, defying genres, enthralling all comers and keeping ears pricked with volley after volley of reassuringly complex song structures.
Those newbies are winners all, let you lose control and flex. There are no 4 x 4 beats here, all remain steadfastly off-kilter, yet massively focused. They build a wall of sounds from shapes and excitable poly rhythms, then career back into your eye line with ‘Regrets’, some straight ahead radio friendly pop stuff! No, really… well it still subverts of course, but it is POP which snaps at your synapses, then brings your slothful frame to rapt attention with its stunning originality of approach.
I can hear Electronic, sped up Beach Boys harmonies, the vividness of a cartoon, hyper reality tripping up amongst the daisies. Where do these boys and their songs come from – which plane of thinking? From the shards of the universe left over when all else is used up perhaps? Theirs is a restless muse, always questioning – ‘Do you want to know how far you have come?’ Johnathan Higgs intones on another new tune, the music laced with psychedelic twists. It is instantly addictive, thunderously creative. I am smiling now, grinning like a dumbfounded cat, as the drum pads are thrashed, the sweet vocal samples jumping out into the ether.
The walls build, mesmerising, Higgs speaking in tongues us mere mortals struggle to understand but need to be with, every instant, every second. Their soft, sensitive side is revealed with ‘Leave the Engine Room’, now an old time favourite, the whole crowd smiling from the inside, with eyelids shut and pouting. ‘Photoshop Handsome’ is turbulent, celebratory, making hips involuntarily gyrate, grabbing for the maypole, about to lift off! New single ‘Distant Past’ is epic, historic, catchy like a virus, rushing at light speed to catch up with the horizon. Then they be gone….
Oh wait a second….returning with a new rush of orange power, they fly through a double vision encore, culminating in the scattershot brilliance of ‘Cough Cough’, surely one of the most exciting and heart poundingly amazing single releases of at least the last 10 years.
This diamond band have barely scratched the surface of their seemingly limitless talents. All I know is that continue to break new ground, smashing up the paving stones of anonymity as they stride forward, grasping at possibilities for stretching and bending sounds to their will.
That new LP can’t come soon enough….