Album Review: Everything Everything – Get to Heaven
Get to Heaven (Sony RCA)
When listening to Everything Everything’s third − and strongest − album, there are two contrapuntal phrases that stick in the mind, jostling one another for pre-eminence. The first is frontman Jonathan Higgs’ admission that Get to Heaven’s distressing lyrical concerns resemble “a horror bible”. The second is much more straightforward to grasp: “here comes the summer”. Though each seems to be directly in contention with the other, both notions define the air of Get to Heaven pretty well: an album on which violence, helplessness and fear are stirred into sun-kissed art-rock, and topped with an abundance of sticky choruses that threaten to grant Everything Everything their biggest push into the commercial spotlight yet.
True to clever-clever form, the Mancunian quartet still don’t sit straight. This is, after all, the group whose début album opens with a song about a civilian-oriented airstrike, disguised as a narrative about a petulant love triangle. Following on from 2010’s riddle-addled Man Alive and 2013’s winding, widescreen Arc, Get to Heaven sees the band closing in on a sweet spot between fidgety, Talking Heads-indebted guitar pop and risible declarations of modern malaise. More often than not, it’s a formula which is utterly nailed this time around, and the successful hit rate hinges on two particular tactics. For one, the group’s natural flair for melody is given increased favour over elaborate song structures (perhaps producer Stuart Price should be thanked on this count), and second, Jonathan Higgs’ songwriting has evolved into its most focused and cogent form thus far. The tongue-twisting jargon of singles past has been jettisoned and replaced with urgent, visceral and cutting commentaries which land with immediacy and clarity. A horror bible it may be, but it’s one which is hard to put down.
Still planted firmly at the group’s centre, Higgs’ tense falsetto has always been the nucleus around which Everything Everything’s heady sonics revolve. The singer has never before sounded as compassionate as he does throughout Get to Heaven; his voice constantly sounding as though it’s a mere hair’s breadth away from cracking, whether from exertion or emotion. In interviews for the album, Higgs has made no secret of his depressive spiral during the promotion of Arc, nor his intake of a trial-and-error series of antidepressants. The lyrics of Get to Heaven are the product of his subsequent gorging on the most horrific news updates of the past two years, and opener ‘To the Blade’ wastes no time in conveying Higgs’ reactions to the stomach-churning headlines. It’s heartbroken, angry, and very, very afraid, referencing the execution of Alan Henning to open the floodgates for a tidal wave of atrocities. “He didn’t want to be your prisoner / Any more than you’d be mine,” he cries over Alex Robertshaw’s abruptly crunching riff, projecting a sickened disbelief in his characteristically florid manner.
Such fear is the dark thread connecting these eleven tracks, manifested as responses to extremist propaganda (‘Regret’), the rise of caustic politics (‘The Wheel (is Turning Now)’), and concerns as simple and universal as the worry of youth slipping away (‘Spring / Sun / Winter / Dread’). These disquieting thoughts are couched, cunningly, inside some of the catchiest material you’ll hear this year. The title track refracts the gleaming skitter of Arc‘s ‘Choice Mountain’ into something much more captivating; a tropical shimmy that dances along to joyous guitar skiffle, a big calypso chorus, and – yes! – a whistling hook. While the colour palette is brighter than ever before, there’s a vein of humour darker than tar under the surface. “Where in the blazes did I park my car?” Higgs asks, baffled by the apocalypse that arrives in the middle of what sounds like a beach party. It’s a highlight on an album that wriggles, fidgets and fights its way through worry after worry, blazing through the tatters of civilisation with fierce energy. Even non-fans can’t deny the stickiness of the festival-baiting ‘Distant Past’, on which Higgs’ primary desire is to escape the throes of the present through an evolutionary reversal. Further on, the jabbering urgency of ‘Blast Doors’ bobs and ducks like vintage Bloc Party; Jeremy Pritchard’s bass stalking Higgs’ tumbling tirade to a finale adorned with handclaps.
Most moving of all is the penultimate ‘No Reptiles’, which precedes the stumbling balm of ‘Warm Healer’ with an ever-swelling sea of keys and a bouncy drum loop. It offers a suitable representation for Get to Heaven itself, finding a sonic approximation of paradise while skirting modern-world apocalypse. Anybody left unconvinced by Everything Everything’s previous ostentatiousness are unlikely to be converted by Get to Heaven, but what the band lack in nuance is moot point given their sheer earnestness. A willingness to shriek in today’s musical climate seems to be the only way to get heard over the tumult, and Everything Everything look set to smuggle a switched-on and restlessly creative mindset right into the heart of the mainstream. Here comes the summer − and impending doom along with it.
“Did you think that Everything Everything would change?”*
*Possibly not what Jonathan Higgs intended to indicate.
Posted on June 30, 2015, in The Music World and tagged 2015, Album Review, Arc, Blast Doors, Distant Past, Everything Everything, Get to Heaven, Jonathan Higgs, Man Alive, No Reptiles, Regret, Stuart Price. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.