A Fever Dream and its extra track EP, A Deeper Sea, go criminally unnoticed in discussions of Everything Everything, a Manchester Indie Rock group’s discography. As a matter of fact, Everything Everything as a whole are criminally unnoticed across the whole of music. Their tactful and intentional composition on each and every record is second to, well, not many. With a style that at times closely mimics Radiohead and at others The Arctic Monkeys, another Manchester rock group, they manage to craft futuristic and infatuating compositions that could easily be the sounds of 2030.
Finally reaching industry and public success with their 2015 album, Get to Heaven, Everything Everything were definitely on a high. Get to Heaven was driven by impressive guitar melodies, wonderfully infectious bass and drum rhythms, and most of all, Jonathan Higgs’ unmatched vocal range.
On this extended album, we see E.E switch gears a bit and focus much more on their lyricism and use of vocals. They forego the pounding drums and skittery guitar riffs ever-present on their previous project and embrace a more toned-down and consistent sound. This album is definitely more for the indie and pop fans, rather than those of the rock persuasion who became infatuated with the battering instrumentation on Get to Heaven.
At times, we still see Jonathan pick up the tempo with his vocals, as was his strength previously. Especially on Arc and Man Alive, their two earliest albums, Jonathan impressed with his rapid-fire yet still melodic vocals. The band employs Higgs as what can only be called an instrument, at times using samples of his voice to punctuate their instrumental backing. We often hear multiple Jonathans singing, especially on this extended album. Of course, when you have a singer with talent like his, it’s best to use him wherever you can.
The messages on this album pertain quite closely to the current events in 2017 when it was released. Songs about consumerism, the progression of collective mental health issues, and even Donald Trump’s presidency. While an attention to cultural phenomena and political events are ever-present on Everything Everything’s other albums, the shift of focus from instrumentation to lyrics helps this album get its somber and humorous message across.
I have an interesting relationship with Everything Everything’s music. Perhaps the nature of their discography, which fits my musical niche quite perfectly, has led to my dilemma. Their music is perfectly poppy, without being annoyingly so, meant to be played in a stadium or to create such a feeling inside the listeners head. A band with a perfect mix of the power to both brighten and obscure your headspace. However, even on lively tracks, especially on these two projects, the lyrics slam home at the end of the day.
Whenever I find one song on one of their albums, I get stuck inside of it for a few days. Because of this, many of their albums have been devoured in pieces, rather than whole. Unfortunately, this means talking about specific tracks becomes difficult. On past posts, I often have listened to each album as a unit quite recently compared to when I publish. However, my history with E.E and this album is long and spotty.
When I first found the album, “Night of the Long Knives” hit me like a truck. The obviously culturally motivated title, the feelings of betrayal and apprehension, and the slamming “it’s coming” chorus define the first track on this album. This was one of the first songs I lived in in this collection, flooding my life with pounding 808’s and expansive and deep synths.
“Desire” and “Can’t Do” both come on heavy, leading the album off with continued pounding drumbeats and bouncing guitars. But the next song on this album to catch my attention was “Good Shot, Good Soldier”. All superlatives aside, this song defines what a toned-down experimental pop tune should do. The super-minimalist instrumental and Jonathan’s voice fill in the gap between a chorus that dives and swoops through chords.
The track takes on an issue that has, unfortunately, become more and more prevalent over the years. The singer takes on the mind of a police officer, who believes he is right in everything he does. In the chorus he takes shots at God, saying “if I’m wrong then strike me down/with a bolt from the heavens”, as well as “can you see it through all our eyes”. Of course, the song is aimed towards police officers with superiority complexes, who believe that if they were truly doing wrong then they would be able to tell.
“Ivory Tower” and “Big Game” are two more current-events-motivated tracks, discussing sort of conversely both the anonymity of the online space and Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential race of 2016. Of course, the question of interference in the election can be addressed through the lens of the “Ivory Tower”, with respect to the way that many of those who did so were never caught. “Big Game” is slightly more humorous in its lyrics, but of course still acknowledges the seriousness of the election result.
The songs that play continuously in my head from this extended album are “The Mariana” and “Put Me Together”. The first is an elusively soothing and warmly-voiced ballad, composed of much chorus, that discusses the rapidly-rising male suicide rate in the world. “Someone always has to be the man”, Higgs repeatedly belts, as “the ice” grows all around him. The impactful and strained choral section tears you down in the same moment it begs you to sing along and release the breath you still have left as you fall into the Mariana.
“Put Me Together”, on the other hand, is another in the vein of the toned-down indie-sounding tracks on this record. The apprehensive and often-disappearing synth melody backs Jonathan as he speaks, more than sings, the lyrics on this track. Upon listening, the song may at first sound like the narrative of a parent watching others take care of his children and recognizing that they haven’t been as present as necessary for the children to build a connection with him.
However, this track actually addresses the unrest caused by the Brexit movement, casting doubtful shadows onto the racially motivated and xenophobic implications of the movement. My favorite line of the song, “Is this the darkest night/or is that dawn in your eyes”, at first listen, sounds uplifting, almost as if there is an end to the struggle in the future. However, the dawn may be sinister, as well; it could represent the truly hateful wishes of those advocating for Brexit, and the fact that the dawn could be coming.