If any band were going to sonically elucidate an obscure psychological theory involving the proposed breakdown of the lateralization of brain functioning marked by the collapse of the Bronze Age… naturally it would be Everything Everything. Their fifth album, RE-ANIMATOR, sees the Mancunian kings of art-pop dial down the chaos and complexity of their former releases and instead mark out a stripped back, but by no means less impressive, new chapter.
Given the short time frame, the album was put together in a mere fortnight, the band approached its construction slightly differently, shifting away from short takes of perfectionism and adding a little looseness while never sacrificing their experimental nature or the catchy pop hooks they excel at.
Though some of its tracks are more reminiscent of Thom Yorke, ‘Lord of the Trapdoor’ could easily be a Moon Shaped Pool B-side, there are some right pop corkers. Namely the single ‘Violent Sun’, which is bolstered by a pounding eighties-style drum beat, phasers for days, and a glorious multitude of vocal harmonies. In keeping with their psychological-theory-based inspiration (Julian Jaynes’ writings on bicameralism – the idea that prior to the development of consciousness humans were born with their thoughts voiced as auditory hallucinations), the album frequently harks back to the past. There is plenty of eighties pop influence, from the dark synth arpeggios contained in ‘Planets’, to the chorus of ‘Lost Powers’, and into the anthemic finale of ‘Violent Sun’.
The esoteric concept is also explored in ‘Arch Enemy’. In fact, the arch enemy that Higgs is describing here is none other than the characterisation of self-deprecating thoughts contained within the protagonist’s own head. The protagonist being a sentient fatberg, as comically revealed in the song’s music video. Upon first hearing the track, thoughts of the Sopranos sprung to mind, perhaps it was because of the bridge which sounds like a retro video game car chase. This is followed by a heavy slap around the ears; a sonic collision fitting for a final outro in which the character’s nemesis gets absolutely K O’d by heavy guitar distortion before the triumphant vocals of Jonanthan Higgs, as he screams “it’s time to show your face”.
Another predominant set of themes throughout RE-ANIMATOR is that of hubris, the unintended consequences of humanity’s obsession with technology and the need for us to restore our relationship with nature. The ballads of the album, ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Birdsong’, focus on these musings in particular. Early single ‘Birdsong’ stands as an exquisite translation of one of nature’s finest symphonies, our feathered friends. This is duplicated by pitched and sampled African drums as well as warbling pitch-bending synth melodies. The chorus screeches out the didactic heart of the album, “bird song in reverse, I hear me sing”. ‘Moonlight’, on the other hand, is a minimalist track, weaving a lyrical tapestry rich in Greek Mythology, with nods to dystopian universes, a dash of existential dread, all the while imbued with some serious Interview with the Vampire vibes. There is a lot of talk about blood on this record.
The crowning jewel of RE-ANIMATOR is ‘Big Climb’. The stadium-rock-esque, and somewhat apocalyptic masterpiece is filled with the vocally dense harmonies that the band are known for. It also has a cheerful melancholy to it, supplemented with a hip-possessing euphoria, as Higgs repeats in the chorus “We are one thing. Not afraid that it’ll kill us, we are afraid that it won’t”.
Akin to ‘Big Climb’ there is the Icarus instinct inspired counterpart ‘Black Hyena’ with its bass heavy, polyrhythmic intro bleeding into an industrial sounding drone. The track takes the notion of Hubris and mocks it with an absurdist, comedic edge. “I wrote these lyrics about someone tinkering with animals, literally bringing them back – a Frankenstein-type creature, messing with nature, which comes up a hell of a lot in RE-ANIMATOR,” said Higgs.
RE-ANIMATOR sees Everything Everything replenished and on top form, without a single duff track.