That Everything Everything’s ‘MY KZ, UR BF’, released in 2010, was a great pop song we can all agree. Perfect indie disco fodder – nothing more, nothing less. It’s difficult to write a band off as a one-hit wonder when their one hit only reaches 121 in the singles charts, but it never seemed as if the band would amount to anything more than that singular earworm. So to say that their second album, Arc, is a pleasant surprise would be a bit of an understatement.
In displaying a wide breadth of musical touchstones and great depth of both thought and feeling, Arc proves to be an addictive and rewarding listen, but Everything Everything have also reminded everyone that yes, they are still around and that their continued existence is a very good thing. ‘Cough Cough’ is the best distillation of this aggressive progression and has quite possibly the greatest use of percussive coughing in modern music. It sounds more likely to have been produced by Hudson Mohawke than a Mancunian indie band, and indeed, its sharp editing and breakneck pace would not seem out of place in on a hip hop or dance track. However, the added momentum of a militaristic drumbeat and some fine harmonising make it the best song of this very, very young year.
It bares a few similarities to ‘Armourland’ from the album’s latter half, which adds a glittering, widescreen chorus to the kleptomaniacal production elements, while ‘Kemosabe’ pulls off the same trick with scaling guitars and spiraling vocals. There is a great sheen to both songs, and they risk sounding a little too 80s – superficial, driven by empty bombast – at times, but there’s enough to undercut and stimulate beyond their anthemic peaks, not least lyrically. ‘Armourland’ displays vulnerability and intimacy that is often displayed on Arc, but such emotion is regularly drowned out by comical strangeness – ‘Kemosabe’s’ attempts at Lone Ranger fanfic and ‘Torso of the Week’s’ leering perversions can attest to that.
The album can be accused of squandering the momentum of openers ‘Cough Cough’ and ‘Kemosabe’, but there are a lot of interesting turns taken in their aftermath, even if they don’t lead anywhere as memorable. The orchestral chamber pop of ‘Duet’ and the blazing acoustic march of ‘Feet for Hands’ may be quite generic at heart, but the band’s willingness to employ new styles and instrumentation is impressive. The closing trio of ‘Radiant’, ‘The Peaks’ and ‘Don’t Try’ combine all of the best elements – the jittery arpeggios of Alex Robertshaw’s guitar, sky-scraping choruses; Jonathan Higgs’ yearning, laddish falsetto, and the band’s irreverent combination of strings and electronics – to magnificent effect and aid in confirming Everything Everything as one of Britain’s premier art-rock bands.
They have the probing curiosity of These New Puritans and the feral beauty of Wild Beasts only without the laughable severity of the former and greater ambition that the latter. This is a fascinating album that somehow shrouds arena-filling, M.O.R. indie in a frantic, experimental collage of tastes and lives to tell the tale.