Everything Everything missing signature sound
Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 23:01
The emergence of the new generation of British indie rock bands over the last few years is a lot like the current explosion of DIY rap artists who have created a unique niche in today’s music scene. While the current strand of hip hop can be classified as gritty (Danny Brown’s unadulterated tales of crack deals and licentious behaviors, or ASAP Rocky’s heady beats and swagger) or hyperbolic (Action Bronson’s Scarface-esque narratives, or Flatbush Zombies’ “We are the living dead” mantra), Britain’s indie rock is heavily built on one key aesthetic: eccentricity. Foals’ dark and angular dance rock sets the mood for front man Yannis Philippakis’ frantic howl, while Alt-J builds cryptic tales of dour characters often in operatic and bipolar fashion, switching between every indie genre on command.
Everything Everything could be the most eccentric of the bunch. The eclectic “art rock” found on the Manchester quartet’s fantastic yet relentless 2010 debut “Man Alive” is almost impossible to describe. It’s a mix of every indie genre found over the last 10 years blended together and performed in an erratic manner with virtuosic technique. Ostensibly upbeat indie-rock (“Qwerty Finger,” “Photoshop Handsome”), dance-rock covered in R&B hooks (“MY KZ, UR BF,” “Schoolin”) gloomy, minimal electronica (“Tin (The Manhole),” “Leave the Engine Room”) and others such as indie pop or post-rock were found in different parts of songs or combined for an awkward combination, that shouldn’t have worked. Thanks to the concise production from David Kosten and John Higgs’ distinct spasmodic tenor, the all-over-the-place sound of “Man Alive” somehow never feels disjointed or forced.
“Arc” finds the group comfortable in their own skin and is a more focused and accessible affair, trading the “look at us” incessancy of “Man Alive” for darker songs that let the listener breathe. Although “Arc” has a more cohesive sound, there’s something missing at times, that visceral energy that made Everything Everything’s debut so engaging. “Arc” starts off with the one-two punch of “Cough Cough” and “Kemosabe,” the lead singles released at the end of 2012. The former opens the record with giant marching band drum rolls and an incredible vocal display from Higgs, who sounds if he’s held at gunpoint while brash synths build an intense atmosphere. “Kemosabe” finds Higgs singing from the gut to an almost internationally infused hip-hop beat and a chorus that bursts with ear candy choruses. The urgency found on the opening two tracks is only found in bits throughout the album, in the standout “Armourland,” “Radiant” and the verses of “Feet for Hands,” which is bold stadium rock that brings to mind bands such as Muse or Mew. “The House is Dust,” “Undrowned” and “The Peaks” are the slowest songs the band has written and don’t have the same impact as the uneasy attack of Everything Everything’s best songs. While there isn’t a bad song on the album and never a moment to skip, the passion of “Man Alive” is only found in glimpses on “Arc.” While it’s still a great album when listened from front to back, it often feels hollow. The album has tons of ideas and potential but contains half the naive passion found on “Man Alive.” It’s a damn shame.