Front cover of ‘Get To Heaven’
by Ed Biggs
Ever since they first bamboozled the indie scene with their absolutely-anything-goes approach, the perennial problem with Everything Everything is that they’ve always sounded better in theory than in practice. In many ways, their meta approach to influences and culture is perfectly suited to the information age, characterised by social media, news overload and the conflation of the personal and the political. What could be more contemporary than a band whose hyper-jittery aesthetic reflects back that feeling to its audience? But while the Manchester four-piece’s ambitions are admirable, they’ve always been too self-aware for their own good, and while their first two albums (Man Alive in 2010 and Arc in 2013) had their glorious peaks, elsewhere the lack of quality control inherent in their “will this go with that” approach meant that an awful lot of it sounded arbitrary and was genuinely tiring to listen to, with no space to reflect, just like the social media age they sought to reflect. EE held up a mirror to our times, but offered no judgment upon it.
But with Get To Heaven, their third album, we see a gradual refinement of their aesthetic to something a bit more coherent and accessible, at least musically. The band have stated that the themes cover beheadings, ebola and the rise of UKIP to name a few, pretty much the product of a band obsessed with rolling news channels. On more of the tracks, EE work through an idea until its logical conclusion rather than getting bored with it and picking up a new toy every two minutes like they used to. The first line of the album, on opener ‘To The Blade’, singer Jonathan Higgs throws down a rhetorical question with “so you think there’s meaning in anything that we do?”, needling the naysayers who have dismissed their previous work. Well, no, Jonathan, but there doesn’t have to be in order for a piece of music to move the listener. The song itself makes the gut sink – when the gentle opening shifts gears once then twice in the space of a 4 minute song, you think ‘here we go again’. But, pleasingly, Get To Heaven then settles down into a very strong first half. The chart-bound house stabs of ‘Distant Past’, which sound like Calvin Harris or Avicii if they were into indie music, works in spite of the ludicrous rap intro, and should be this album’s crowd-pleaser in the vein of ‘Kemosabe’. The disturbing self-immolation image of the title track, contrasted with its upbeat, soulful indie feel, is a great juxtaposition and an album highlight, and the bastardised Motown beat of ‘Regret’ is another, with Higgs picking out a typically image-heavy lyric “rolling in my grave / feeling like a grenade”. ‘Spring / Sun / Winter / Dread’, with its ticking beat and tropical vibes, could even pass for a Rihanna song.
However, as the album wears on into its second half, a lot of the old gremlins return. Because of the way they’re constructed and Higgs’ penchant for impenetrable comparisons and imagery, when an EE song doesn’t work, it really doesn’t work, and feels like the product of a bunch of elitist show-offs. On Get To Heaven, the album loses energy with the irritating ‘The Wheel (Is Turning Now)’ and never regains it, with a lot of ideas that fail to find a centre of gravity and end up drifting. The interesting ‘No Reptiles’ very slowly builds into towards a glittering finale which doesn’t actually arrive, and is hobbled by the bizarre lyrics “baby, it’s alright to feel like a fat child in a push chair” (?). The ambience of closer ‘Warm Healer’ is also decent, but goes on for at least three minutes more than it should. So, Get To Heaven is half of a very good album, and it at least demonstrates that EE are capable of making that masterpiece that so many have tipped them for, when they channel their enthusiasm in pursuit of one idea at a time. (6/10)
Listen to Get To Heaven here!
Tags: album, Alex Robertshaw, Ed Biggs, Everything Everything, Get To Heaven, Jeremy Pritchard, Jonathan Higgs, Michael Spearman, review, Sony
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