Album Review: Everything Everything – A Fever Dream

By on Tuesday, 15th August 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Everything Everything Fever Dream album coverEverything Everything find themselves in an envious position artistically. No matter their ever-changing sound, the Manchester-based group have a zealous and growing global fanbase who eagerly await their next move and sell out their live shows. This re-evaluation and reinvention on each go-around has led to some very interesting results, and their latest record is no exception. ‘A Fever Dream’, their fourth out this week, is surely a different animal from 2015’s ‘Get to Heaven’. The first clue came with lead single ‘Can’t Do’, when frontman and lyricist Jonathan Higgs’ asserted, “…we don’t care[,] we just want you to dance.” Following on from the confrontational and sometimes challenging listen ‘Get to Heaven’, this seems to suggest an about face and a direction towards more mainstream fare.

The idea that a one-dimensional Everything Everything album was possible didn’t seem likely to me. The early origins of ‘A Fever Dream’ were borne out of lead guitarist Alex Robertshaw’s desire to reconnect to the electronic music that soundtracked his teenage years, like Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada. Higgs adds that it was “the electronic stuff mixed with American heavy bands of the early-mid ‘90s” that inspired his and Robertshaw’s songwriting. This tapping into adolescent feelings of excitement and spontaneity comes across in the LP. The production by James Ford is just right, too: there’s never a feeling of too much pomp or pretence interfering with or masking the band’s voice.

New electronic elements add plenty of interest to individual songs, while also never overwhelming the sonic landscapes. An anticipatory collection of synth effects, including a repetitive beat precise as a clock ticking, feel inspiring in opener ‘Night of the Long Knives’. An imposing wall of droning, compressed synths further ushers the track in, changing the mood quickly along with the repeated, regretful lyric of “shame about your neighbourhood”. A quickly spat out sarcastic, SOBBY jibe seems appropriate following the pro-Brexit vote last year. Any neighbour unlike yourself, of a different colour, religion or way of life, “the wrong kind of people”, is under suspicion. On ‘Ivory Tower’, Higgs’ anxious energy focuses on the rich and powerful, untouched by his fellow man’s struggles. His bandmates contribute a heavy frenzy of controlled chaos, as if in protest of those very people and their inaction complicit in the way things have become.

Everything Everything don’t like to stay in one place. They also like shocking you, but just enough so they’re sure to get and keep your attention. Album standout ‘Run the Numbers’ is likeable enough melodically and lyrically (“some fish swim when they don’t know the water from the air”), but it’s the punctuations of funky bass and noodley guitar notes that prove most engaging. Promising teasers ‘Can’t Do’ and ‘Desire’ (watch and listen below) are unforgettable, unabashed in their pop sensibility and full embrace of synthesisers. A nice balance of synths, percussion and vocal harmonies frame the gorgeously melodic ‘Good Shot Good Soldier’. What could be more weighty than the conflicting thoughts inside the head of those tasked to serve and protect, sometimes at cost to others?

Then there is the softer side to this band. ‘Big Game’ is mostly melancholic, a gentle beauty until about the 2 minute, 30 second mark, when a menacing bass line leads the charge during an oddly melodic instrumental bridge. ‘White Whale’ has a similar structure, its quieter front half arresting with Higgs’ words, “your love is like a white whale / my hand is on the third rail / I want you to be okay / I want us to be okay” and leading to a soaring, dreamy guitar trill. The song continues on in a grand cinematic fashion and is a fitting end to the album, reminiscent of ‘Get to Heaven’ closer ‘Warm Healer’. Higgs’ idea of a place where a realist concerned with the state of things and a head-in the-sand escapist can meet halfway in love is elusive and unlikely, a good analogy of where we find politics now. Given the frustration with society exhibited on ‘Get to Heaven’, the desolation of piano-driven ‘New Deep’ isn’t a surprise. And it’s beautiful.

‘A Fever Dream’ isn’t boldly confrontational as its predecessor, but I wouldn’t have expected it to be. A new album allows Everything Everything to flex their artistic muscles, while commenting on where they think things in this world have gone wrong. There’s a famous quote from Thomas Edison that goes, “Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.” Everything Everything aren’t afraid to try something different and think, and they make you think in the process.

8.5/10

‘A Fever Dream’, Everything Everything’s fourth studio album, will out this Friday, the 18th of August, on RCA Records. In-stores and festival appearances the group have announced for the rest of 2017 are listed here. To read through our Everything Everything archive here on TGTF, all the way back to 2009 (!), follow his link.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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