Inconsistent but with moments of brilliance, and what might be one of the most important songs of the year.
Manchester Prog-Rock/Pop outfit Everything Everything turned heads with their 2015 album, Get to Heaven, and have rarely disappointed since. Frontman Jonathan Higgs proved himself a writer attuned to current affairs, with the band hiding weighty political ideas behind catchy melodies and fast paced rhythms. 2017’s A Fever Dream saw the band take a darker turn and become more streamlined, losing some of their bright quirkiness which many found so attractive in Get to Heaven. Re-Animator continues in this vein, with subtler cuts that feel introspective, concerned more with the human condition rather than politics.
The album opens as it means to go on with “Lost Powers”: low-key but steadily building, deviating from Everything Everything’s tendency to open albums with a bang. The song’s climax, with a typical glitchy solo from guitarist Alex Robertshaw and an underlying riff as ominous and sinister as it is memorable, results in an epic start to the album – one I’m surprised wasn’t chosen as one of the early release singles.
What follows is easily the highlight of the album. “Big Climb” set its sights on the issue of climate change. By focusing on human ambition and progression Higgs pins down the issue, highlighting the idea “we have to play God”. By far the most powerful line, though, is in the chorus: “Not afraid that it’ll kill us, yeah. We are afraid that it won’t”. As we find ways to better our lives and keep progressing, we do so at the expense of the world. The lyrics suggest perhaps if we were all dead then things would improve. This song was intended to be the album’s lead single, but this was halted due to the band feeling this line was tasteless in the eyes of the pandemic. However, it can’t be ignored – the pandemic’s pausing of conventional lifestyles and dependency on travel has shown how clean the air can be without us. It is rare we see music cover topics such as climate change, making this song one of the most painfully important songs of the year.
However, the album begins to lose its vitality. “It Was A Monstering” would be a good song, but dangerously treads the line between homage and simply being derivative. The band adopts the downbeat broken chords typically found in latter-day Radiohead, and Higgs does his best impression of Thom Yorke. The difference is when Radiohead did this, it was new – here it feels a little lifeless. “Planets” has grown on me hugely; it picks up the pace, with a climax that has a sci-fi grandiose to it, but the song can feel a little repetitive and streamlined. The same follows for “Moonlight” – its hook just isn’t powerful enough to justify its slow pace. For a lesser band, these songs might be the highlight of an album, but for Everything Everything I can’t help but feel underwhelmed.
Whilst Higgs breathes life back into the album with his eccentric lyricism in “Arch Enemy”, this song still feels diluted. Set up to be a typical Everything Everything banger, being both catchy and brash, but everything from Higgs’s falsettos to the murky electronics feel lacks clarity and brightness. Similarly, “Birdsong” begins beautifully but becomes weighed down by murky distortion. “Lord Of The Trapdoor”, however, makes up for this with a climax powerful enough to rival any song by the band, and the hook in “Black Hyena” is among the catchiest of the album. Turning a new corner, “Violent Sun” presents a surprisingly simple melody that feels both hopeful and urgent. It’s as romantic as the band has ever been.
Re-Animator sees Everything Everything compress and simplify their sound, for better and for worse. You have to commend them for trying something new, and it feels unfair to constantly compare them to their past music, but it was the chaotic eccentricity of their previous work that made them so refreshing. This album, for all its moments of brilliance, is not all to my taste, but perhaps it is to yours. Give it a listen and see.
Featured Image Source: Everything Everything’s “Lost Powers” Official Lyric Video / Youtube / AWAL Digital Limited