Everything Everything’s fourth album ‘A Fever Dream’ wants to go for the grand political statement, but comes off a little clunky.
Manchester-based quartet Everything Everything have had two whole apocalyptic years since their last album Get To Heaven to soak up the looming tragedy and desperation of this world. With their often-nuanced lyrical take on society and the acts of humans in the face of desperation, they should have had a free-for-all while writing their fourth studio album A Fever Dream. And yet, the band hailed as one of the most interesting indie acts to come out of UK in recent years, preaches a somewhat obvious message here.
While the band’s Mercury Prize nominated 2010 debut Man Alive had a mixed critical reception, ranging from ‘innovative’ to ‘headache-inducing’, their subsequent albums Arc (2013) and chart-topping Get To Heaven (2015) saw the band smoothing out their songwriting approach, sounding more coherent, while still maintaining their wide and eclectic range of influences that garnered them initial hype. The musical core doesn’t seem to change that much on A Fever Dream, as the album still retains some interesting musical moments and shifts that take you pleasantly by surprise. One part that is excluded from their new effort however, is the abundancy of incredibly intricate lyrics by Jonathan Higgs, that few other writers in his field seem to match. Gone are the quick rap verses of ‘Distant Past’ or the entirety of ‘Undrowned’, which reads like an Allen Ginsberg poem. A lot of the tunes on A Fever Dream seem to settle on mantra-like repetition and ad-libbing instead.
An example of this is lead single ‘Can’t Do’. The main focus of this song shifts to Higgs’ personal writer’s block. The very meta-resulting chorus of “I can’t do the thing you want” repeated over and over is just a bit too obviously ad-libbed. It makes it very doubtful that the sentiment as a whole deserves a full three and a half minutes devoted to it. Everything Everything have always been much better at writing large scale, socio-political songs, as that lends itself to throwing every possible allusion and reference the lead singer can come up with, like a less muddled and random version of Alt-J’s Joe Newman. The same goes for ‘Desire’, which even for its undoubtedly cool tune, comes up with lacklustre lyrics at best. By usual Everything Everything standards, at least.
Perhaps the overall problem looming over the record is that for all the abundant social commentary material provided over the last year, Everything Everything struggles to find anything to say that hasn’t already been said, but better. Maybe, the faults are so glaring, even their nuanced outlook goes out the window.
Take for example the unavoidable and quintessential “Trump sucks” song on the record – ‘Big Game’. Honestly, halfway through 2017, the very basic attacks on Trump the song offers are getting tiresome to say the least. Yes, the guy has small hands and a bad temper. That has been repeatedly established for the past year and a half. The leader of the free world is basically a vulgar child and the world is in shambles. What else have you got to say about this dead horse? Where did your actually touching calls for human empathy go? Or your more intricate outlook on society?
Despite these problems, the band does come through with some seriously touching moments on the record. Opener ‘Night Of The Long Knives’ is as disturbing as it is catchy. The referential ideas of history repeating itself and the morbid chorus are perfect. ‘Put Me Together’ is a definite highlight of the album, reminiscent of The National with a bass that seems to be allergic to playing on the downbeat. The song seems to dissolve in on itself midway through until reassembling itself gloriously at a little past the three-minute mark. If ever Everything Everything deserved to be praised for interesting and original songwriting, it would be for songs like this one.
A Fever Dream isn’t a bad album by any measure, but it’s no more of a success than any of their previous three efforts. It contains most of what made Everything Everything at least a decently interesting band to follow. But the obviousness of most of its themes and the lack of innovation beyond what has already been established by them seven years ago pulls it away from being any kind of a definitive record. (6/10) (Ellie Wolf)
Listen to A Fever Dream here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: A Fever Dream, album, Alex Robertshaw, Ellie Wolf, Everything Everything, Jeremy Pritchard, Jonathan Higgs, Michael Spearman, review, Sony
Currently studying Mathematics and Music at Leeds University. Generally a fan of all things musical, cultural, and pretentious. Values aesthetic way too much.
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