Everything Everything are on the verge of a serious breakthrough. Their last album, 2013’s ‘Arc‘ crashed into the top 5 of the UK charts on release, but it was more of a slow-burner than the band were known for at the time. It Combined contemplative lyrics with a more focused approach to making music, rather than the scattershot brilliance of debut ‘Man Alive‘, which was all over the map both in a musical and lyrical sense. Although the latter only applied if you could work out what the hell frontman Jonathan Higgs was singing about. You needed a lyric sheet to make sense of everything, and this is what connects it with ‘Get to Heaven‘.
The Mancunians’ third album is an extraordinary listen; the music crackling with energy and effervescent, full-on pop melodies, the lyrics documenting horrors both personal and political. The opening lines of ‘To the Blade’ (“So you think there’s no meaning in anything that we do / Maybe it’s the silence, maybe it’s the war / Try to understand it / Try your best to understand the world”) kick everything off and point to the album’s theme: everywhere we look, things are going horribly wrong. Rather than offering solutions, the record explores what it is to be a human in 2015 with the sort of clarity one would never have looked to Higgs and co for five years ago.
The title track, for instance, has Higgs ruminating on the mundane amidst images of descending vultures and ‘bodies in the road where nothing else will grow’: “As the tanks roll by under a blood-black sky / I’m thinking ‘where in the blazes did I park my car?” It’s an ode to trying to hold yourself together when everything around you is going to hell, set to skittering, hip-hop-influenced beats and incorporating a whistling hook. Whistling? No one gets away with that these days, but the fact that it leads straight into one of the most joyous choruses they’ve ever written means they get off the hook. It’s not even the best pop song on the record, but it has stiff competition, flanked either side by singles ‘Distant Past’ and ‘Regret’, songs which sound like they could be written by two totally different bands.
The knockout blow is delivered just five songs in, with ‘Spring/Sun/Winter/Dread’, whose coda will be kicking about in your head for weeks: “You are a thief and a murderer too / Stole the face that you wear from a craven baboon / ‘Cause you did it to her and you did it to him / And you’ll do it before and you’ll do it again.” It’s an impressively uplifting song that just so happens to be about the fear of aging and losing touch. “Are these my people, or are they barbarians all?” Higgs wonders, and that sense of feeling alienated crops up in other tracks too. ‘The Wheel (Is Turning Now)’ offers up a response to the cult-like resurgence of far-right political parties and nationalism: “Do you wanna know how far you’ve gone? Do you have any idea?”
From there, the record moves into increasingly tense-sounding territory, with the idea of death turning up quite often. Insight into the selfish motivations behind recent mass murders is wrapped around a fictional attempt to assassinate the Queen on ‘Fortune 500’, while Higgs sounds like he’s about to have a verbose breakdown on the searingly intense ‘Blast Doors’. ‘Zero Pharaoh’ rails against oppressive authority (“They tell me he’s a household name / Only no one has a house anymore”), while the towering penultimate track ‘No Reptiles’ is full of the usual arresting imagery we’ve come to expect from the band, depicting the elite as ‘soft-boiled eggs in shirts and ties, waiting for the flashing green man’, building to the album’s most blissful moment where the drum pads that provide the song’s hook drop out and it shoots skyward: “Baby, it’s all right to feel like a fat child in a pushchair / Old enough to run, old enough to fire a gun” – words that will be sung back to the band at plenty of festival stages this summer, no doubt.
‘Get to Heaven‘ wrestles with some heady lyrical concepts, and the energy level is kept high throughout, dipping only when it’s absolutely necessary on the comparatively serene closing track ‘Warm Healer’; impressively enough, though, it never becomes too much, thanks mostly to the abundance of hooks. They’re all over this thing, and ensure that more or less every remaining track could follow ‘Distant Past’ and ‘Regret’ as future singles. The meaning of the album changes when poring over the lyric sheet, however, and it’s revealed to be a lot heavier in subject matter than its Technicolor cover art may suggest. The way the album’s lighter and darker elements play off each other is sublime; Everything Everything have mastered the art of the emotional balancing act, and in giving us an album that seeks to make sense of our chaotic world, have also figured themselves out, delivering a bulletproof collection of songs that takes the political and makes it personal; one which is destined for classic status.