Everything Everything – Arc/Live
Everything Everything were one of the first bands we ever interviewed. You may think that is more indicative of our youth than their maturity. Not necessarily. Arc shows just how much a band can grow up in 2 years. Man Alive was hectic, mad and at times brilliant. Those moments of brilliance were tempered by moments of sheer inaccessibility. Sonically, tracks like Photoshop Handsome and Suffragette Suffragette were superb. They were lyrically clever too, you just had no way of knowing that when listening to them. Higg’s vocals were hidden beneath layer after layer of distortion. They were sung at such high tempo and pitch that you could only decipher them by reading the cover sleeve. This wasn’t how they wanted it: “On the last tour, I would be looking at a sea of confused faces, of people trying to sing along. I’d think this song means everything to me, and you don’t even know what I’m on about.” So they decided to do something about it. Man Alive was all hedonistic experimentation, Arc is a fine display of thoughtful exploration.
That’s not to say they’ve left Man Alive behind for their current tour. When they played at The Junction, Cambridge on the 11th they played as much material from the old album as they did from the new. This was very astute and made for a great set. Arc is a record for reflection, the perfect headphone soundtrack to a contemplative train journey as you watch the world pass you by. Man Alive is to be played loudly, from an anti-social sound system as you stomp along. It fits rather well into a live show. MY KZ YR BF, Schoolin and Photoshop Handsome certainly had that stomping effect on the baying audience. Arc provided some restrained interludes in the form of Duet and Choice Mountain. It’s best contributions were the easy pop of Cough Cough and the paradoxically satisfying Don’t Try. This is an album that is better appreciated in your own time and space though.
Cough Cough is a track from the EE of old: powerful, driven and infectious. There is a something new here though. There’s a message, one that you can hear and heed when “that eureka moment hits you like a cop car.” “You wake up head and shoulders in a glass jar” is an invitation for some philosophical musings. Is there anything out there beyond our imperfect perceptions? Kemosabe rides this lofty wave: “Four walls and a cauldron of Kalashnikoving//My head reels and I’m crawling down the corridor, I can’t see, but I’m heaving like a holocaust.” This is poetry. It’s meaning may be abstract but its none the less beautiful for it.
After the pop one-two opening Arc settles into subtler, more restrained territory whilst maintaining enough scope to survey the problems and neuroses of 21st century Western society. It’s fairly obvious what Torso Of The Week is taking aim at as trembling verse launches into powerful chorus. Feet For Hands takes on less obvious subject matter. Despite the continental feel offered by the mandolin, this is a story grounded on home soil: the suicide of PC David Rathbone, “when you think of me, don’t remember this, not the slow wane of a blinded man”.
Arc is a search for place, role and meaning. Atop the shimmering strings of Duet Higgs asks if “you feel left behind, like there’s something not right?” The baroque minimalism of Undrowned despairs that “its not a galaxy made for a guy like me.” The off beat electronica of Armourland is juxtaposed with a desire to escape the clutches of technology, to “feel some new joy in this autopilot life”. Radiant is anything but: “I could make a difference but I don’t//Go! Leave your homes! Take whatever you can! Its no joke!”
Or rather don’t, but instead hang around for a clever closing duo. The Peaks is as lonely and isolated as the title suggests. The soundscape is sparse, populated by twinkling piano chords as Higg’s falsetto pierces the mist. Not that it offers much by way of a warm guiding light: “I’ve seen more villages burn than animals born, I’ve seen more towers come down than children grow up.” Perhaps the album should have finished there. Perhaps Don’t Try should have been listed earlier. Perhaps EE wanted to end on a more actionable note. Don’t Try is a nod to the driving rhythms that make them so irresistible. Higgs returns to his hectic falsetto as the album reaches a soaring crescendo with one final message: “Don’t try to hide it ’cause it will have you in the end.”