Everything Everything – Arc
by Will Herbert (Digital Arts & Game Design), published March 11th 2013
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
For those uninitiated with the British indie scene, Everything Everything is known for providing harmonized pop-rock through convoluted lyrics and vigorous, kitchen-sink instrumentation. Their second album, Arc, steers away from the pitfalls of the sophomore slump, providing a brilliant foundation for an enduring discography.
Let’s start with the single. “Cough Cough,” the lead track, creates an abstruse, harrowing sense of the album’s direction. It’s a song that keeps your attention through catchy, metronomic percussion and memorable lyrics. While the overall statement of the track (and album) is hard to follow, it’s pretty clear that consumerism and mass media are at the chopping block.
“Sold your liver but you’re still feeling the red / Sold my feelings now I’m hanging by a thread,” sings frontman Jonathon Higgs. Social commentary has always been a part of Everything Everything’s identity, and their newest album follows suit. Overall, It’s hard to know what to make of a song that states “There’s something wrong but it’s okay if we’re still getting paid” before blasting a stadium-ready chorus of “I’m coming alive!” These sentiments aren’t as concrete as they could be, and Higgs certainly isn’t the next Tom Morello. But Arc isn’t the type of record to provide a quotable, copy-pasteable statement of intent. Instead, it makes its points through abstract, poetic lyricism.
In a similar vein to “Cough Cough,” the album’s twelve remaining tracks feel heavy with emotion and exhibit an eclectic selection of musical styles and instruments. This creates somewhat of an aptronym regarding the band’s title, and provides for a work that’s powerfully diverse, but not always cohesive. If you were wondering, that last term refers to a name that’s aptly suitable to its owner. Everything Everything falls perfectly under that umbrella, as the band’s influences, lyricism and musical structures feel drawn from literally every potential crevasse of pop music, and then some.
Elsewhere on the disc, the second-place “Kemosabe” brings funky falsetto to the shimmering synth-pop already established by the album’s lead track. ‘Torso of the Week” addresses some body-image issues with a sluggishly seductive flair. This carries us through until the angsty acoustics of “Feet for Hands.” This is pop music, plain and simple, and the overt layers of synth are there to prove it. “Undrowned,” however, veers a bit off-course. It’s unashamed of its melancholy organ notes, and Higgs starts to give off a Panic! At the Disco flair. That’s when you realize it might be time to hit fast-forward.
The album’s finale, “Don’t Try,” takes the band’s fervent vigor to its calmest, most logical conclusion. “Don’t try to hide it,” croons Higgs, and you can tell that he means it. Little to nothing about the entire record feels suppressed, and almost every track feels lively in some form.
All in all, the biggest issues with Arc lie in its ambitious drive to cover all the bases. Just like Man Alive before it, the album tries to turn flawless pop-music into too many other things. It attempts social commentary, synth pop, stadium rock, crooning melancholy and a hint of Stomp percussion. These attributes are established with varying success rates, which makes you wish they had chosen a smaller pool of influences.
While some of these aspects may take away from the cohesion and focus of the work as a whole, it’s hardly enough to stop the forceful pop-momentum that’s started in the initial track and carried all the way to the finish. Arc is a strange exhibit of machismo, maturity and panoramic vision, and it’s a damn good one at that. “Yeah, so, um… wait a second,” begins Higgs with faux-clumsiness at the start of the album. Don’t let it fool you though, Everything Everything is “coming alive,” and they’re “happening now.”
Recommended Tracks: Cough Cough, Kemosabe, The Peaks, Don’t Try