Alphabet Bands review
A lot has been written already about the sophomore release from Everything Everything; those intelligent indie popsters (they have degrees in Popular Music remember) famed for making music that surprises and doesn’t follow contemporary rules. The majority of the words that have thus far been written, as with the majority that have been spoken, have been about how Arc doesn’t fit the mould they made with Man Alive. The words are about how their sound, that was once so multifaceted you could tie your body in knots trying to dance to it, has suddenly become so much more accessible.
It’s odd that such words have been written about a band whose debut hit the Top 20, but so many were the ideas and layers that the relative simplicity of Arc has caught many by surprise. It’s important to note the word relative there as while this is more straightforward a listen than Man Alive, there is still much more going on than in the average chart bothering pop.
Whether this is a sign of a band maturing or a conscious move to increase mainstream appeal further, we wouldn’t like to say but this does feel much more focused and something people will be able to connect with live as well as on the stereo.
Arc begins at a frantic pace with, the apparently London riots inspired, “Cough Cough” which is an invigorating, and pulsating listen. Jonathan Higgs still sings at a pace that makes it hard to determine the lyrical content but the infectious frenzy of “Cough Cough” renders that no more than a minor quibble. The infection continues with “Kemosabe” which bounces along and seems tailor made for a live-show sing-a-long with its ‘hey’ peppered chorus.
It is “Duet” though that stands out; it is Everything Everything’s Coldplay moment, if Coldplay sounded more like Peter Gabriel doing indie. Perhaps the most straightforward pop song on Arc, “Duet” has a lighters-in-the-air chorus and a string section that sweeps the whole thing along. It also has about 17 other elements and quirks, a big guitar-led denouement and makes reference to ‘an acropolis for the taking’; so when we say straightforward pop, we mean in the context of the world Everything Everything inhabit. It’s very different to where the rest of us reside but it‘s a fabulous place to visit.
As good as Arc is, there are still some issues with pacing, considering its frenetic opening the album slows considerably by halfway and it is maybe two or three tracks too long, suffering from drag in the final act. It is though a much more coherent record and shows signs of a band maturing and getting to grips with how to manage their own eccentricities in such a way as to engage and entertain the widest possible audience. Man Alive hit Top 20 and garnered a Mercury nomination; it would be a surprise if Arc didn’t at least match those achievements; it’s no less than it deserves.