On their 2010 debut album Man Alive, Manchester four-piece Everything Everything established themselves as among the most promising artists to emerge from the UK music mecca for quite some time. The album’s quirky blend of retro electronic effects, driving rhythms and bizarre vocal melodies provided few obvious reference points and consequently wrestled itself free of any conventional tags.
Their debut was not, as some critics mistakenly concluded, a sprawling mess of directionless noise. One of the album’s most praiseworthy features in fact, was its ability to make clear statements amidst diverse sonic experimentation. Singer Jonathan Higgs was subtly poignant in his contemplation of such topics as the ‘air- brush’ culture in the modern media (‘Photoshop Handsome’) and the triviality of individual dilemmas compared to wider global events (‘MY KZ, UR BF’), despite his lyrics often being misconstrued as nonsensical gibberish. The incomprehensible madness of the subject matter was perfectly mirrored in the frenetic instrumentation, which implemented a range of styles and a variety of clever hooks to constantly surprise and beguile.
Songs from Man Alive made up the bulk of the band’s set, with singles ‘Suffragette Suffragette’, ‘Final Form’ and the afore-mentioned ‘Photoshop Handsome’ sparking the top responses. Despite their familiarity, the tracks are still sounding fresh, energetic and original and the band are equally as committed to delivering them with full force. Arguably the album’s finest composition ‘Tin (The Manhole)’, a stripped-back, cripplingly emotive piece of balladry, was frustratingly absent from the set, but, that aside, there was little of the juice from ‘Man Alive’ left unsqueezed.
The most interesting aspect of the performance however, was the handful of new songs the band aired, presumably to be included on their follow-up album Arc expected in January. Visibly excited by the opportunity to trial this new material, Everything Everything rattled off seven previously unheard tracks with even more vigour and verve than before. The clearest difference between the old and new material is, as the band has already documented, a more sing-able, accessible aesthetic. It’s certainly clear from new songs, such as ‘Duet’ and ‘Peaks’ that the band have slightly toned down the eccentrics in favour of a grander, more lasting sound, which initially struck me as a shame. Until now, the band’s USP has been its frenetic, uncompromising rhythms, and, while these remain on the latest single ‘Cough Cough’, it seems that ‘Arc’ may not be quite the whistle-stop whizz that ‘Man Alive’ was.
On reflection however, what is most important for the band is that they continue to develop new forms and directions in which to channel their creativity. It is, of course, always a major disappointment when an artist clumsily churns out a record to the blueprint of a previous success. Even with these initial reservations, it must be said that the songs are still strong, direct and by no means lacking identity. They foreground typically unusual instrumentation, but the back bone of each track is clearer, less fragmented and just as punchy as anything Everything Everything have thus far released.
Though in the most part the show is a step into the unknown for artist and audience, testing the commitment of each to the other, this is by all accounts an engrossing and hugely enjoyable hour of live music. The performance marks a perfect middle point in the band’s development, saluting the achievement of the first phase and welcoming in the potentially explosive second.
…Jack has been listening to Dirty Three – Whatever You Love You Are…