Manchester’s art-pop clever clogs are thrillingly world-weary on album four
Everything Everything have been pushing society’s death around their plate since their hyperactive 2010 debut ‘Man Alive’. Back then, art-rock’s premier doomsayers were picturing the archaeologists of 20,000 AD trying to comprehend our world via computer keyboards they’d dug up. Now they’re far more straightforward about the end of days, opening their diagnosis of the west’s ills on new album ‘A Fever Dream’ with the track ‘Night Of The Long Knives’, named after Adolf Hitler’s 1934 purge of people he thought were holding back his Nazi regime.
As the album progresses, their furious gaze falls on tangible sources of dread – Brexit, President Trump, the communities that spawned them – forming a bleak picture about the world as we know it going almost irreversibly to s**t. “Is it the darkest night,” they hazard at the album’s optimistic peak, “or is that dawn in your eyes?”
Of their four albums to date, ‘A Fever Dream’ is by far the most focused, making good on frontman Jonathan Higgs’ recent claim to NME that the songs “need each other”. Each one skewers a symptom of 2017’s sickness, blasting instant-grat culture (‘Desire’), Trump vs facts (‘Big Game’, ‘Run The Numbers’), community divisions (‘Put Me Together’, ‘A Fever Dream’), slacktivism and trolling (‘Ivory Tower’) – and, possibly worst of all, defeatism (‘New Deep’, ‘White Whale’).
Fortunately they’ve couched each depressing mess in some of their most bombastic and beautiful melodies to date, under the supervision of producer James Ford (Foals, Arctic Monkeys). ‘Desire’ stomps about like Muse’s ‘Uprising’; the pensive ‘New Deep’ recalls the beloved Italian composer Einaudi; ‘Ivory Tower’ illustrates the internet’s oversaturation of opinions via a mad math-rock outro; and resolute closer ‘White Whale’ reaches a moment of musical transcendence that Radiohead would be proud to call their own.
They’re at their best on ‘Big Game’, though, which marries lyrical bite and pounding melodies in its artful takedown of Trump. Bassist Jeremy Pritchard lashes out at the Prez melodically, using a stuttering, vacillating, but still totally banging bassline to paint him as some enormous, semi-tranquilised mammal. Meanwhile, an impish Jon Higgs croons hilarious jabs, such as “Even little children see through you”, “witless and rank as a fat-filled hole” – and the kicker, “ever so small but you think it’s big”. Slack-jawed darkness may lie around every corner, but as Everything Everything remind us, wit can still shine through.