Everything Everything are known for their maximalist production, laden with powerful guitars, high energy drums and unpredictable vocals. But for their fifth studio album, produced in only two weeks, the Manchester art rock band take a different approach. Instead of focusing on synths and programming, guitarist and joint-songwriter Alex Robertshaw described how the album was approached from a singer-songwriter perspective, concentrating on melodies and harmonies.
Re-Animator opens strong, with ‘Lost Powers’, where EE’s new approach of understated production brilliantly pairs an uplifting melody with melancholic lyrics. ‘Arch Enemy’ is another highlight, a song which describes a man who finds God in the form of a sentient fatberg in the sewer. For any EE fan who loves their combination of unsettling lyrics with catchy choruses, this track is sure to be a favourite.
But afterwards, with the exception of ‘In Birdsong’, a beautifully minimal track about the experience of the first human on earth, the album starts to lose its way. EE’s shift away from busy and inventive production results in disappointingly repetitive melodies and percussion. These shortcomings, combined with limited use of lead singer Jonathon Higgs’ range of vocal styles (instead focusing on melodic falsetto), result in lethargic tracks like ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Lord of the Trapdoor’, which lack the band’s usual dynamism. Re-Animator’s saving grace is ‘Violent Sun’, a big, moving track which closes the album.
Lyrically, EE have once again delivered on the weird and the wonderful. Much of the album is based on psychologist Julian Jaynes’ theory of bicameralism, the belief that early humans’ minds were separated into two consciousnesses. Re-Animator also delves into themes of human nature, greed, worship and love, all done through EE’s signature use of discomforting imagery, notable in ‘Arch Enemy’: “Jets like wire cut your body/ They slice your teats/ Calcified and stately cheeks”.
So, is Everything Everything’s new approach to making an album a risk that has paid off? The answer is, unfortunately, no. Focusing on lyrics and harmonies has resulted in a thematically fascinating album but, sentient fatbergs aside, Re-Animator’s simplistic production has created a few melodically beautiful songs and an equal number of boring ones.
(Image Credit: RCA Records)