by Rob Wilson
It appears that you can’t escape Everything Everything’s Arc at the moment. An army of adverts that seem to have filled up every billboard between John o’ Groats and Land’s End, occupied every bit of space on the homepages of YouTube and various blog websites and covered half of Spotify’s entire display window have certainly helped propel Everything Everything into the UK Album Chart’s top five for the first time – and into the minds of the British public. After their debut release, Man Alive, combined straight-forward pop music with lashings of creativity showed great promise, can Everything Everything become something very special?
From the very beginning of Arc, the amount of money that’s probably been spent on the advertising campaign seems to be justified. Lead-single ‘Cough Cough’ opens up with a stuttered hook over booming drums before dropping blasts of synthesiser and clean strikes of the hi-hat. This is wonderfully complemented by lead-singer Jonathon Higgs’ crisp falsetto as he sings of epiphanies being caused by ‘cop cars’. This creativity continues as ‘Kemosabe’ confidently bursts in with huge bass drum hits and snare claps over more stuttered hooks and slick synthesizers, as well as more bright falsetto from Higgs.
Unfortunately, though, ‘Torso of the Week’ fails to maintain the atmosphere and strength of the tracks that preceded it; Higgs’ falsetto sounds uncomfortable in the lower registers as he tries to drop down to the verse’s lower pitches and the drums click shyly instead of booming confidently, while the explosiveness the chorus requires is left wanting. Despite this, Everything Everything still show that they can write a strong vocal hook – “What you wrestling with?” probes Higgs as he tells the story of a woman demanding physical perfection from herself.
‘Duet’ then builds from sounding dangerously close to something plucked from anything Coldplay have released since 2009 to a confident pop song that finishes with crashing cymbals and loud strings suitable for endless repeated montages of 2012’s Summer Olympics in London. ‘Choice Mountain’ then has Everything Everything swinging dangerously close to anything from Foals’ 2010 Mercury Prize nominated Total Life Forever before ‘Feet for Hands’ opens with a Latin-style guitar riff. Why Higgs’ opts for weak falsetto rather than a strong full voice here baffles me; ‘Feet for Hands’ brings some much needed energy to the album at the midway point but Higgs never quite backs up the four-on-the-floor beat that runs underneath the strong bass and clean guitars.
‘Undrowned’ then opens with a synthesized organ playing soft arpeggios for a melody that is then mirrored by a guitar, which creeps in underneath Higgs’ half spoken-half sung delivery. Again though, Higgs opts for weak falsetto that becomes surplus to the requirements of the song, which is then backed up late on in a desperate attempt to reach a half-emphatic finish that leaves ‘Undrowned’ sounding like an unfinished idea for a filler track rather than the quirky social commentary it attempts to be before creeping into the title track, ‘_Arc_’, which only really acts as a way to set up late-on single-contender ‘Armourland’, which honestly feels like a bottle of water after a very long walk in the desert. Its bright synths and syncopated introduction that works as a way for each verse to return both bring such a refreshing change and decisive direction after a small group of songs that honestly sound as if they don’t know where they’re going.
And it’s this sketchy approach to completing songs that Everything Everything returns to until the very end of proceedings. The biggest problem with Arc is that Everything Everything juggle too many ideas to put down into something cohesive and make it sound like it has one purpose or one destination. Aside from the two singles that have been released so far (‘Cough Cough’ and ‘Kemosabe’) no track ever reaches the heights it seems destined for in the opening bars. For this reason Arc is frustrating, as Everything Everything go from sounding like potential masters of the pop song to sounding like novices that bit off more than they could chew when it came to ambition.