Contemporary urban dread and dystopian unease has always driven the arrhythmic pulse of Everything Everything’s three unpredictable albums; every track seems to be at the cusp or dénouement of a sweat-soaked anxiety attack. That’s a good and admirable thing; the Manchester band’s steadfast refusal to take an easy route—to dare to be politically outraged as well as musically capricious— has made them as fascinating as These New Puritans, Foals or Radiohead as they continue to refine their restless and ambitious scope.
On Get To Heaven, their third and strongest album, the qualities that made 2010’s Mercury Prize-nominated Man Alive and 2013’s Arc soar have been nurtured and elevated, but not rendered safe. In fact, Everything Everything brazenly achieve the opposite. The album is wildly and charismatically surprising. Collaborating with producer Stuart Price of Les Rythmes Digitales and Zoot Woman proved an inspired decision; tracks like the skittering ‘The Wheel (Is Turning Now)’ or the thrusting riposte of radio single ‘Regret’ cleverly find their grounding before slewing dramatically in unexpected or elusive directions. It makes for a thrilling listen.
Jonathan Higgs’ majestic and wounded falsetto, jerking spasmodically between aggravated raps, gorgeous flights of escape and niggling doubts, is a mighty force. He plays the global narrator of these insidious times, whether embarking to a heady dance beat into a menacing night on ‘Get To Heaven’ or just combusting into a frantically verbose meltdown on ‘Blast Doors.’ Guitars and synth lines dart through tracks like lizards scrabbling away from danger, as on the disturbing ‘To The Blade,’ briefly finding cohesion before breaking apart again.
But it’s with the astounding, heart-ripping sadness of the wartime lament, ‘No Reptiles,’ that Everything Everything has recorded one of its masterpieces, a song that stealthily emerges with brittle, military precision before imploding into a synth-swollen sob. Spare and unflinching, with the harsh and weirdly surreal refrain of “it’s alright to feel like a fat child in a pushchair old enough to run/Old enough to fire a gun,” the track isn’t just about a far-off battlefield, but seizes upon the dark disquiet that’s become the world’s everyday inner voice.
As melancholy witnesses and anxious participants, Everything Everything have thrown themselves into the maelstrom with Get to Heaven, releasing a resolute soundtrack to our sorrowful, hellish times. It’s an astonishing achievement.