I first listened to alt-rock band Everything Everything when they were supporting Keane on their forest tour last year (the Keane concert was thoroughly enjoyable, by the way). Did I like them? Not much, although I suppose the fact that they were playing for an hour when all we wanted to do was see Keane may have played a part in that (it must suck being a support act).
But then recently I heard they had been nominated for an Ivor Novello Award and for some reason I found myself curiously searching them up on YouTube. I watched the music video for “MY KZ UR BF“, which is the first and best track on the album. Combining syncopated rhythms in the verses with harmonies in the bridge and a simple but irresistibly catchy killer chorus, it is clearly an excellently original earworm of a song that deserves to win that award.
I bought their debut album Man Alive to see if the other songs match up to it. Well, track 2, “QWERTY Finger”, is reasonable and the divide between the first and (much more deserving of respect) second half is intriguing, but lead singer Jonathan Higgs’ yelping and his lyrics about making soap out of whale-flesh render the song basically annoying.
This is followed by the rather uninteresting “Schoolin'”, which has good musicianship in terms of the keyboards but ends up sounding like a much more annoying, less good version of Peter Gabriel. Later on, Photoshop Handsome is catchy and has a good beat but is overshadowed by Higgs’ screeching voice in the chorus, compared to “Suffragette Suffragette” which has harmonies, guitars and contrasts between heavy and soft that work well.
In songs such as “Leave the Engine Room”, “Final Form”, “Two for Nero”, “Tin (The Manhole)” (the latter with choir-like harmonies and soft, scintillating keyboards) and, to an extent, “Weights”, Higgs’ falsetto and the band’s harmonies are sugary and they actually work. But they begin to grate after a while, and in some parts they grate if you listen to them once. I’ve already mentioned “Photoshop Handsome” and I will add that the way Higgs screams “Cascade!” in “NASA Is On Your Side” is the only complaint I have for an otherwise good song. It successfully incorporates strange syncopated rhythms into a Coldplay-esque ballad, while being enjoyable to listen to.
As for the lyrics, well they have shown they can use a lot of interesting words in a short amount of time, but, while they’re not all as bad as they are in “QWERTY Finger”, they could at least have tried to squeeze in some form of overall meaning in them (the words of “NASA Is On Your Side” go from teenage terrorists to chasing homeless cheerleaders through sewers lit by polythene bags). Still, there’s a certain sophistication to it that’s hard to describe, which makes them at least far superior to ordinary pop lyrics about parties and high-school break-ups.
Overall, I think I will say EE are definitely a bunch of talented musicians and songwriters. However, whether you’ll enjoy the album or find it too irritating to bear much depends on your taste for original but weird music – and, above all, falsetto which is prevalent in all the songs. Personally, I would mostly describe their music as weird and wonderful and the falsetto as either nice or tolerable. It’s worth buying to see if you’ll agree.