How much more brilliant can one band become? If you are lucky, you enter the crowded marketplace with a shiny product, begging jaded ears to believe in your new vision of pop, rock, rap, jazz - whatever it may be. If you are luckier still, you reach the stage of the so-called difficult second album : will those people who loved us first time come back to the fold, still be interested?
If you reach the rubicon of a third release and those same people (with some new ones to boot) are still enthused by your songwriting skills, you’ve done pretty darn well to convince the nay-sayers.
Let’s face it, there aren’t many bands who can progress so rapidly without repeating a formula in some form. Or are there?
Meet Everything Everything - now up to album 3. For those unaware of their stealthy rise to minor stardom, it’s best to start from base level. A four piece from Northumberland and parts of the Northwest, they first engaged me with an acoustic rendition of a ditty from their debut release, ‘Man Alive’, at Glastonbury in front of Radcliffe and Whiley. It was magical, multi-layered and incredibly original in every way possible. Those funny alto-mixed-with-falsetto vocals doing hitherto unknown acrobatics, married to strange, tricky lyrics infused with multiple metaphors and melancholy made this boy feel unnaturally excited about the immediate future…..
Fast forward to album 2 (‘Arc’) and Everything Everything are garnering songwriting awards for ‘Kemosabe’ and rewarded us with the titanic genius of ‘Cough Cough’ the most original and flat out exciting single release of the last 10 years. Could they emulate this huge step into the annals of modern pop history?
This latest opus arrived largely unheralded, accompanied by subtle, stealth-like marketing and the first single ‘Distant Past’. I heard it first on Greg James and he was, like me, indecently excited by what he was hearing. Next came Phil Taggart, another Radio 1 DJ with credibility; he simply exclaimed that this band of four made him glad to be alive.
Next comes ‘Regret’, a relatively mainstream offering for this most daring of bands in the post-modern era. The nagging (in a very good way) intro, a call to arms, underpinned by military style drums and a plinking guitar refrain, followed by a gracious release into the bittersweet, yet celebratory chorus- “did you think that everything, everything would change?” Then it all comes around again, interrupted by a comic horror laugh and that perfect, soaring falsetto pouring out from the lungs, larynx and voice box of one Jonathan Higgs. Best single of this year perchance? Find me summat better and I’ll shave my head….okay ‘Shake if off’ by Swifty is purdy cool, I admit, but…but…but… this band are so very special that I find myself unable to type at times, my spine is in collective spasms of joy.
Every note is worth your time, every syllable of every word worthy of your consideration. The lyrics are spellbinding, confusing, crazy, brutal, constantly questioning (the ‘do you know how far you’ve come / do you have any idea?’ from The Wheel (Is Turning)), throwing the listener off course in gloriously disorientating ways. ‘Fortune 500’ declaims - ‘I’ve won, I’ve won, they told me that I won’, but you feel slightly scared, unnerved by it all. These boys keep you on your toes, the song stands proud, beaten but unbowed. The vocals pile up on top of each other, like an unholy choir of enslaved angels, wings clipped but beating furiously.
The album progresses swiftly into even more unsettling territory with ‘Blast Doors’ (‘I could send my brain on a holiday forever’), which manages to caress your soul with its delicious, downbeat refrain - ‘ You say you’re gonna change, but you don’t have any time’. Their approach to pop is artistic, stimulating, reaching, grasping for the new, the now, the very essence of existence. For EE boundaries do not exist, yet they craft such unending beauty from seeming despair and this comes crystallised within the welcoming embrace of ‘Zero Pharaoh’, with its ghostly refrain (‘give me the gun’) and repeated middle eight,which cascades into a star-spangled guitar pool.
The real tour de force comes with penultimate track ‘No Reptiles’, probably this band’s bravest song - a perfect mixture of malevolence and hope, with direct references to soft boiled eggs in shirts and ties, fat children in pushchairs with guns, all couched within a sky scraping lament to lost opportunities and future possibilities. The outdo lyrics deserve quoting in full - ‘Just give me this one night to feel, that I might be on the right path, the right path that takes me home, wise enough to know myself’
Take this frankly marvellous foursome to your frantic hearts and hold them there for ever and ever, until you take your last breath. And while you’re at it, let everyone else know that EE are the clear and bright present and blinding future proof solution for music. Souls on fire indeed.