Everything Everything

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Heaven, London, February 13

Tonight opens with ‘Undrowned’, a song that’s a kind of Radio 4 circle-jerk, with harpsichord tinkling over frontman Jonathan Higgs’ choirboy falsetto. Then a hip-hop beat arrives in ‘Torso Of The Week’ as Everything Everything swap brainboxing for the sultry beats of ’90s R&B, catty lyrics and pouty Essex boy indie. Until ‘Kemosabe’ takes over, with its neon-fabulous chorus prompting a mass singalong. And then you see him: Higgs THE POP STAR. Marvel as he executes his foot-on-the-amp bulge-lunge, getting his man-junk all up in your business.

The Manchester band flit seamlessly from high culture to the high street, and you don’t know whether to dance or start a book club. Tonight’s opening gambit epitomises their unlikely rise to mainstream glory. Classically trained musicians making pop music, the quartet are a throwback to the era of Orange Juice and XTC, when intellectuals and session musicians alike could be famous even though they looked weird and smelt of cheese. But what tonight proves is that by replacing the mathy puzzlers of their 2010 debut with bubblegum crowdpleasers on their second album ‘Arc’, Everything Everything have taken their pop formula from cult curiosity to the stuff of broad appeal.

It takes a certain kind of genius to make Prince-like funk that also sounds like an operetta – as they do on ‘Armourland’ – and still get the front rows going. But this is what you get when musicians versed in Tchaikovsky go full Timbaland and write hook-candy pop songs.

The hyperactive dynamics do become exhausting, and the sound is further cluttered when Higgs gets polyrhythmic with an extra snare drum. But when they’re at their most pop, on the NERD-meets-Friendly Fires ‘Cough Cough’, the hyperactive structure and dynamite hooks make for an impossibly eventful form of super-indie.

They play with other pieces of classic pop, too. ‘Duet’ is EE’s first concession to love. And what do you need to write a love song? Sincerity. Which is a tricky one for a band who deal primarily in theatrics. On record, the upcoming single is unintentionally arch, a precious nod to the original highbrow cheese-monkey, Kate Bush. Tonight it might as well be a blue-collar Springsteen anthem about working a double-shift for your lady. Just like that, Britain’s poppiest smart band become Britain’s smartest pop band.

John Calvert