Manchester four-piece Everything Everything have never been one to shy away from the weird and wonderful. While most of their music nestles broadly in the art-rock genre, they’ve consistently had enough aesthetic variety and eccentricity in their music to stay fresh and zingy. Their bold, politically-charged lyrics have always proved popular amongst their fans, so you might think that the political omnishambles in which we find ourselves would have provided plenty of lyrical fodder for the band’s fifth album Re-Animator. There you'd be wrong: Jon Higgs is tired of the political preaching. Instead, what we get here is a wholly more optimistic record, more concerned with bigger-picture existentialism and the mysteries of human consciousness.
Re-Animator builds slowly at first in ‘Lost Powers’, with simple meandering melodies and short bursts of staccato strings. Jon’s vocals are sparing; restrained. This gentle opening builds up gradually to a boisterous breakdown with crunchy distorted guitars and glitchy synths; a harbinger of the energy to come later in the record.
‘Big Climb’ brims with wide-eyed curiosity, a sonic representation of the apolitical, pensive leaning of the album. The verse offers us our first taste of Jon’s signature lyricism, darkly comical, even Lovecraftian. ‘Planets’ unfolds like a sonic fractal as bright and zingy synths dance along a rich bassline. It is like a dizzying ride through space, and by no accident either. Speaking on Instagram Live, Jon described how he and guitarist Alex Robertshaw talked about ”making music that sounded like a planet hitting a planet”.
There is a temporality to the band’s earlier work, partly due to their politicised lyrics, but this album feels timeless and expansive, commenting not on the contemporary but instead a more universal and infinite narrative. And it makes for a more challenging album; it’s easy to make pithy comments about current events when the 24hr news cycle drip-feeds us divisive debate-starters, but this album has the more difficult task of distilling a more fundamental human experience.
Speaking of fundamental human experience, the second single from the album ‘Arch Enemy’, is a worship song directed at a sentient fatberg with a crown made from bicycles - not the weirdest thing to happen in 2020 and par for the course for Everything Everything. It is bright, metallic and bouncy, with groovy melodic trills that dance between the vocals. It is a song about waste and greed and climate change, yet despite the dreary subject matter it just makes you want to dance.
‘Lord of the Trapdoor’ is a track that could be lifted straight out of the band’s earliest work. Lyrically and melodically it would fit perfectly in their debut album Man Alive, at the same time sounding more refined and more relaxed - they’re not fighting so hard to make their point. In fact, the whole record feels very much representative of the band’s discography. There are plenty of musical throwbacks to all of their previous works, and in the band’s own words “there’s some wonderment there which we’ve not had since ‘Man Alive’”.
The last three tracks of the album are where we get our most distinct taste of a new Everything Everything. ‘In Birdsong’ worked well as a first single because it is such a marked departure from the group’s earlier work, but this wasn’t meant to be the case: ‘Big Climb’ was slated to be the first single but was pulled due to some lyrics that could have been misconstrued at the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. “Not afraid that it’ll kill us, yeah, we are afraid that it won’t” Jon chants in the refrain. This turned out to be serendipitous, as the expansive, meditative optimism of ‘In Birdsong’ proved a much more relevant track at time of release and a great indicator of Everything Everything’s evolution. In an interview with Gigwise, bassist Jeremy Pritchard explained how “‘In Birdsong’ was kind of apt, and within the run of the record, there is a sense of that being a kind of pause, and I think the lockdown was like that for a lot of people..."
‘The Actor’ slows the pace and gives time to breathe before the frenetic album closer ‘Violent Sun’ barrels in: one of the band’s poppiest offerings to date, it is a warm embrace of a song that perfectly encapsulates the melancholic feeling of a great thing coming to an end...Everything Everything’s portrait of a dying star. The album has all the ingredients of a fantastic live set so it's such a crying shame that the future of live music is shrouded in uncertainty. Thankfully there is plenty of intricate detail in the record, so this coupled with the timelessness of the music lends a great deal of repeat listen value to the album.
Re-Animator is a joyous celebration of Everything Everything’s discography to date but more importantly it is a statement about where the band is going. They may have had enough to say about Trumpian society but the diverse sonic landscape they craft in Re-Animator and its delightfully absurd lyrical content prove that that their imagination is as vivid as ever.
Check out "Behind the Lyrics: Violent Sun"