Everything Everything’s third album Get To Heaven feels like the end of an epic trilogy - triumphant and delivered in the guise of arch and ebullient pop. A coarse and colourful collection of songs, Get To Heaven retains the same sense of adventure which first established the four-piece as pioneering pop- provocateurs back in 2007 and is their greatest accomplishment yet. This is a band that have spent their career challenging every phoned-in convention of rock and revelling in a disdain for retrogression, all the while touring with the likes of Muse and Foals and scoring three Ivor Novello nominations and a Mercury Prize nod in the process.
Following the success of their most recent, top 5 album, Arc, Jonathan Higgs, bassist Jeremy Pritchard, guitarist Alex Robertshaw and drummer Michael Spearman hunkered down in a derelict warehouse in Ancoats, Manchester, to write and record Get to Heaven. Although completing around 80% of the album independently, they enlisted Stuart Price [Madonna, Pet Shop Boys, The Killers] to stitch together their surprisingly vibrant tapestry of modern horrors. It was a musical marriage which may seem incongruous for a band so entrenched in their leftfield roots, but soon unravelled itself as utterly ideal for their alt-pop ambitions. "Stuart was the only producer that really got it'" says Robertshaw. "He's very impressive. Both within music and as a person. He filled the room with positive energy, which we needed quite a lot, considering the issues that Jon wanted to tackle lyrically.”
You see, while ice-bucket challenges, Great British Bake Offs and Kim Kardashian’s arse clogged up the cyber hive in 2014, Everything Everything’s frontman absorbed the brutality in the every day, in every part of the world, from ongoing conflicts, to natural disasters, disease and debt. He watched the news, read the internet, seethed. “That’s one of the many things that went into me during that year - this sense of blinding rage about what is happening. I can't believe the world right now is so incredibly violent, or that there's a strength of belief in the world in a way that we British, apathetic people can even begin to understand,” Higgs explains.
The result is eleven tracks which aim to awaken the desensitised. There are no quiet songs. There is no downtime. Inspired by the cold, bloodthirsty aggression of Kanye West’s Yeezus, Young Fathers’ fury-fuelled vibrancy and retaining that same madcap pop that was at the core of their debut Man Alive, Get To Heaven is an album which shouts over the bland, contemporary music scene. It adopts the voice of both the victim and the conspirator - Higgs like a Jekyll and Hyde, snarling, sneering, hopeful and harmonious.
Take its title track: veiled in a deceptively laid-back melody, Higgs nonchalantly whistles to a sun- kissed tropical groove. But listen a little closer and you’ll hear that all around him is war and destruction. Elsewhere, the sparse and savage No Reptiles is their most visceral yet, a song which finds the singer questioning his own morality. It's a theme that runs throughout Get To Heaven: the album’s narrator is constantly the brink of destruction, whether he is debating committing a crime, or coming to terms with his thoughts after or during acts of depravity.
There is, however, lightness orbiting Higgs’ doom. Like all Everything Everything LPs, there are huge, radio walloping choruses, and with it is an energy which elevates its mood. “In the past, we had a lot of people coming to gigs and scratching their chins, but with this album we want people to enjoy themselves, move like they haven't moved before at our shows,” explains Robertshaw. “We were trying to break out against the lyric's deep, dark place and we wanted to make it incredibly energetic.”
That ambition is certainly realised on leading single Distant Past, a song which nods to previous songs Qwerty Finger, Photoshop Handsome and Cough Cough in its grappling with our digital legacy and a fascination with the evolution of man. The leading single from the album, it’s a freewheeling cacophony of computer generated samples and glitchy sounds which begins its journey in chaps and stirrups, pogos onto an episode of Top of the Pops from 1992 and ends up cartwheeling through the solar system. ""We made a conscious effort to trust our instincts. With the music, as opposed to the lyrical messages, we wanted to make people have a good time and forget about their woes" adds Robertshaw. "In a lot of pop music the lyrics control the song, but with this album and our music I've always found that the music is doing its own thing."
Despite moving into new territory, there’s still plenty of that clever, unpredictable approach to guitar music that first tore through with their debut single Suffragette Suffragette. To The Blade includes a grand climax, the frenetic guitars on Blast Doors nervously scuttle like a deadly spider, and its title track has a shimmering Peter Gabriel-inspired groove. Warm Healer, meanwhile, is built around a looping rhythm; a motorik madness that you can move to. “I was listening to Jon Hopkins a lot,” Robertshaw says of the song’s composition. “Those almost clumsy drumbeats that have their own hypnotic grooves to them - especially when you start locking in every other instrument on top of them.”
Its most poppy moment is Regret - a song that stands out from anything the group have approached before. Instead of attempting to invent, they adopt a retro sound, as far back as the 50s, the type of pastiche the band would formally consider “the worst crime in the world”, says Higgs. It’s the sound of a progressive band playing with the classic nature of songwriting and in turn is their most immediate yet.
Get To Heaven is Everything Everything at their most instinctive and confident. An intricate snapshot of contemporary culture from one of the most inventive bands in British music, the group return with a fervour which not only confronts the mundanity of the norm and the world’s intrinsic evils, but hurls a grenade in the direction of the docile pop and rock scene. “With this new record we wanted to make a bold move,” Robertshaw adds. “We don't have to be worried about being a guitar band. We’re makers of music now.”
Get To Heaven is out in the US via Big Picnic now!
"This is spectacular" ***** - Q
"Wow" ***** - Telegraph
"A masterpiece" ***** - DIY
"A contender for album of the year" ***** - Digital Spy “Genius... Inspirational” – XFM