Music

Everything Everything – ‘Re-Animator’: Album Review

Everything Everything move away from the politically charged lyricism of past albums to focus on an existential yet introspective new record, Re-Animator. 

Manchester art-pop outfit Everything Everything have never been afraid to cast comments on the destruction of mankind, and so the release of their album Re-Animator in a year as chaotic as 2020 seems as appropriate as any.

The first LP in three years follows on from the frantic releases of 2015’s Get To Heaven and 2017’s A Fever Dream, both prophesying the human race hurling towards catastrophe, the latter winning the Music Producers Guild Album of the Year. As we find ourselves in the midst of a world beset by a global pandemic, incompetent leaders, and accelerating racial and class tensions, it seems Everything Everything’s catastrophic prophecy is being fulfilled.

everything everything, re-animator

Jonathon Higgs, Jeremy Pritchard, Michael Spearman, and Alex Robertshaw have been exploring social justice issues in their thought-provoking discography for years, however, Re-Animator sees a shift to a more introspective lens.

The title of the album Re-Animator not only singles a change in the band’s lyrical content, but a change from their usual overlaying, experimental production techniques. The band opts for a more straightforward approach of writing songs that doesn’t need any over the top post-production, streamlining the creative process to focus on harmonies and melodies. But of course, this is Everything Everything we are talking about, so there are plenty of synths still on display.

The basis of the album centres around psychologist Julian Jayne’s theory of Bicameralism, the idea that at one stage in history, humans had two separate chambers of consciousness within their minds; one voice that commanded and one that acted on such commands.

The was made popular in Jayne’s book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind and made reference to the idea that this ‘voice’ of command within the human mind had often been allocated deity status. In an interview with NME, frontman Jonathon Higgs said, “The theory claims that the eventual melding of these two minds into the two-sided human brain we have now was the dawn of mankind’s consciousness.

This complex existential theory supplied the overarching theme of losing and finding one’s consciousness within Re-Animator – quite befitting of a band known for its eccentric art-pop flavour.

Everything Everything’s musical output is art, and while opaque lyrics and glamorous synths are their paintbrush and canvas, they are equally adept in crafting DIY film masterpieces. Their video piece for Violent Sun takes a potential production-pausing event and turns it into an artwork itself, seeing Everything Everything jamming out with charred instruments, destroyed when the band’s studio burned down on the first day of lockdown this year.

While a studio fire may have stunted most artist’s progression, the band saw it as a means to move forward, apropos for their attempt to distance themselves from politically-charged lyricism for their fifth album.

The album kicks off with Lost Powers, a suitable title as any for an LP that’s an existential crisis in itself. The track manages to reference a deeply troubling theory while maintaining an upbeat synth-heavy tune. The chorus consistently repeats, “Come on you’ve only lost your mind,” the first of many references to the idea that individuals may not always be in control of their own thoughts and actions.

Lost Powers transitions into Big Climb, this time at a more frantic pace that emanates a feeling of desperation. Higgs’ semi-rapped vocals present a call-to-arms for the youth of today to campaign against the environmental destruction caused by older generations. The central hook of the song, “We’re not afraid that it will kill us, we are afraid that it won’t” references teenage pessimism towards climate change.

Planets feels the most at odds within the album, opening with cosmic synths that would feel well-placed in an X-Files episode. Planets tackles more political topics of classism with lyrics such as “To all the bigots in the bat cave, I think you are permanently off my Christmas list,” and “The dance floor is overrunning, with frat boys telling me I got no business sitting in business class”, the film clip following a protagonist chimpanzee puppet on an existential journey itself.

Further along the tracklist is Arch Enemy, its themes of greed and waste perfectly matching the imagery provided within the film clip. The video follows a congregation of grotesque grease mountains growing and forming what has been conned ‘Fatberg’ within the sewers underneath a city – imagery enough to make you need a hard drink afterwards.

The track reflects the idea of the divided self, with the protagonist searching for a god-like voice to only find a devilish ‘Fatberg’ figure slowly engulfing the world. Funk-laden melodies are offset by lyrics such as, “I wonder how you come into my dreams at night. I bow before you,” and “I was lonely. You put the poison into me,” as the protagonist progressively loses themselves.

As we hit the back-end of the album there’s a distinct despondent theme, as if humanity and its individuals are quickly approaching armageddon. The lead single from the album In Birdsong is archetypal Everything Everything production, dripping with rich textures and escalating rhythms. The track is perhaps the most applicable to the theory of Bicameralism as it attempts to imagine what it would have been like to be the first self-aware human.

Lyrics exploring two states of consciousness, where Higgs believes there is “Someone in the white matter” of the brain controlling, while “I hear song in reverse, Birdsong, song in reverse”, sees these two chambers finally converge, allowing for the being to finally become conscious and connect to the ‘birdsong’ of the world.

Re-Animator’s sign-off track Violent Sun perfectly captures the ever-growing anxiety of the album with an urgent rush of energetic melodies. As has been referenced throughout the LP, Violent Sun accelerates the feeling of something terrible soon approaching. The final song on the album is positioned to feel like the final song of your life, a screeching attempt to hold on for four long minutes.

Always ones to push confines, Everything Everything has attempted to blur the boundaries between humanity and technology with their album launch. Re-Animator is amongst first albums to be launched in virtual reality, with ticket-holders watching the band perform in an innovative live concert space. The virtual environment offers the opportunity to meet the band, wear virtual merch, and connect with other fans, a unique approach in a pandemic-plagued world.

While Re-Animator signals Everything Everything’s attempts to distance themselves from themes of albums past, its experiential and provocative nature is everything we have come to expect from the ever-captivating band. In a year where we’ve all been forced to take a pause and reflect, Everything Everything have produced a pertinent album that invites you to do just that.

 

Re-Animator is out Friday 11 September via Infinity Records. Grab your copy here.