It’s incredibly good timing for Manchester-based Everything Everything to be releasing an album this month: for one, they’ll be showcasing for the first time at SXSW 2013, a huge opportunity for them to make a big impression in front of the movers and shakers. (It certainly worked for Haim last year, didn’t it?) Showing its face about 2 and a half years after the brilliance of their debut ‘Man Alive’, this follow-up ‘Arc’ has a lot to live up to.
The album has been preceded by two brilliant singles, first ‘Cough Cough’ (review here), then ‘Kemosabe’ (review here), which appear one after another at the start of this collection of 13 tracks. Therein lies the problem to ‘Arc’: it begins with guns blazing, setting the bar to an incredible height that is never quite reached again. ‘Radiant’, at the #11 position, is a sultry pop number with jaunty guitar hooks on top of smooth, buzzy synth and slow jam percussion. It’s the high point of the other end of the album.
This is not to say there aren’t interesting elements elsewhere on ‘Arc’. Take, for example, third track ‘Torso of the Week’ takes the gossip papers as lyrical fodder, with a rocking chorus and singer Jonathan Higgs again invoking his now famous falsetto. It’s good, but it pales in comparison to the singles. ‘Duet’ comes across as a showcase for Higgs’ voice, the song building in magnificence with beauteous harmonies.At the same time, I’m wishing the restraint – and the lack of sheer poppiness of previous tracks like ‘Qwerty Finger’ and ‘Schoolin’’ – was there when it isn’t.
The same could be said for ‘Choice Mountain’, ‘Feet for Hands’, ‘The Peaks’ and even ‘The House is Dust’, which in its sparseness makes me sad, because this isn’t how their music used to make me feel. To add further insult to injury, ‘Arc’ (or as it’s stylised on the cover, ‘_Arc_’) isn’t a full song, feeling like a breathy, strange interlude between two halves of the album. Loads of bonus points for making a title track entirely impossible to be a single, but minus several thousand for it not having a true role on the album.
‘Don’t Try’ is the parting blow from the band. With quick tempo and matching quick tempo lyrics, it’s my vote for their next single. But it’s too little, too late. Of the early reviews I’ve read, there seems to be agreement that in ‘Arc’, Everything Everything are having their Radiohead moment, which probably explains my reaction to it. I really, really wanted to love this album the second I dropped it in the CD drive of my laptop, but like the Peter Bjorn and John song, unfortunately “it don’t move me”.
‘Arc’, the second album from Everything Everything, is out now on RCA Victor in regular and deluxe formats. Watch a documentary about the making of it below. They’re on tour in the UK in February. Shortly after that, the band will be heading to Austin for SXSW 2013.