Arc de Triomphe
Everything Everything - Arc (RCA)
January 14, 2013
When Everything Everything unleashed their remarkable debut album Man Alive upon us in summer 2010, the Motel's Holly commented: "It's just so nice to hear something that isn't like everything else, that isn't going to be easily duplicated by a bunch of identikit bands in two months' time."
Her words still ring true today. After a year and a bit where new independent music has largely sounded thoroughly uninspiring as it all crams into the same bit of the Venn diagram with identikit beats and matching, oh-so-serious studio press shots making a mockery of any attempts to be edgy or unique or different, it's taken the same band to come back and give everyone else a much-needed wake-up call. Step forward, Everything Everything, for Arc is already an album of the year contender and the rest of music hasn't even really stumbled into 2013 yet.
Arc is instantly a more mature and more cohesive record overall than Man Alive, but retains the band's quality and distinct (if divisive) sound. Lead track 'Cough Cough' tests newcomers from the off with its stuttering, infuriating intro, and is probably the closest track in terms of sound to Man Alive. It's a glorious mess of scatterfire drum machine, soaring falsettos, incessant call-and-response refrains and howling accidentals. Typical Everything Everything, in short. If you're new to the band and feeling a bit overwhelmed already, then patience, little ones. You'll grow to love it.
Picking further highlights is, admittedly, a struggle given the consistently high quality. Second track (and second single) 'Kemosabe' is more accessible, with a soaring chorus that burrows into your brain and just won't go away, and the pop monsters just keep coming. 'Torso of the Week' is witty, nagging at a partner in a stale marriage as it winds through a maze of magical key changes. 'Choice Mountain' is another high point, and a perfect example of how Everything Everything's output is simultaneously jagged, fierce, deliberately confrontational... yet somehow accessible, always flowing so beautifully and seamlessly. 'Radiant' goes a bit 'Every Teardrop is a Waterfall' with a meandering guitar hook - and gets away with it, of course.
When the pace drops, the transitions feel less jarring than on the band's first album. Whereas tracks like 'Leave the Engine Room' and 'Two for Nero' were self-conscious and out of place on Man Alive, their counterparts such as the string-drenched 'Duet' and semi-acoustic 'Feet for Hands' sound effortless. Perhaps it's something to do with the smoother overall sound of Arc - not that the first record wasn't polished to pop perfection by David 'Faultline' Kosten, of course. 'The Peaks' is also slow, but very beautiful, a distant cousin of Man Alive's jaw-dropping closing track 'Nasa is On Your Side'.
And speaking of closing tracks, what a treat to save until last. Few bands nail their parting shot on a record, but now EE have done it twice. 'Don't Try' is catchy, celebratory and cleverly crafted. From every electronic squeak, through Jonathan Higgs' effortless vocals, via those epic second verse harmonies, to an outro full of slightly melancholy, wobbly dischords that's totally at odd with the joyous singalong chorus, it's a song to treasure.
If Arc doesn't earn Everything Everything a second successive Mercury nomination, then to be honest, it will be a genuine shock. This is a truly special record - the sound of a band successfully finding their feet after an ambitious first effort in Man Alive. Perhaps less surprising would be a place atop countless album of the year lists in just under 12 months' time. Fancy giving the other bands a chance, lads? No. Didn't think so.
words: Kate Goodacre
archive image: Andy Fairclough
Everything Everything's UK and Ireland tour calls at Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth (February 6), Concorde 2 (7), Arts Centre, Norwich (8), Thekla, Bristol (9), The Junction, Cambridge (11), HMV Library, Birmingham (12), Academy, Oxford (14), Leadmill, Sheffield (16), O2 Academy, Liverpool (17), Whelans, Dublin (18), Oran Mor, Glasgow (20), Academy, Newcastle (21), Academy 2 (22, sold out). The band will support Two Door Cinema Club at Alexandra Palace on April 27.