‘Arc’ (RCA Victor)
Recommended Track‘Torso Of The Week’, ‘Duet’, ‘Choice Mountain’, ‘Radiant’
If Everything Everything’s debut album proved one thing, it was that intelligent music needn’t be uncommercial. ‘Man Alive’’s inherent smartness made it an album out of place when it broke the Top 20, by a band totally at odds with the notion that pop music might be getting stupider.
Come second album time, then, is Jon, Jeremy, Alex and Michael’s vast vat of ideas in danger of running dry? Absolutely not. ‘Arc’ curves around any potential pitfalls by reappointing the core elements of what made ‘Man Alive’ great and framing them in smoother, more subtle songcraft.
Take ‘Choice Mountain’: Jonathan Higgs’ lyrics still sound blithe and natural, even though he’s singing choice rubbish like “I could be the dolphin of your dreams” and declaring himself to be an aquatic lioness daydreaming of swimming ashore and destroying hyenas with his thoughts. (That the song shares the muted guitar sound of ‘Suffragette Suffragette’, but deploys it as part of a far less agitated whole only further enhances the sense of evolution.)
‘Torso Of The Week’ – seemingly an attack on trashy magazines – swerves from mournful verses (Higgs sounds authentically sad when he sings “You look bored with your husband”) to towering, exultant choruses. The euphoria is enough to make you forget that you’re ﬁ st-pumping to what is essentially a Media Studies seminar.
And then there’s ‘Duet’, a song that’s often just strings alongside Jon’s voice, which delivers the immortal words, “Of all the dead volcanoes on earth you just happened to retch and writhe through mine”; a corruption of the famous line from Casablanca that’s so delightfully ridiculous it makes you want to pluck out your brain, buff it on your trouser leg and play it again.
All of which is to siphon praise away from the thrill of ‘Cough Cough’, the anthemia of ‘Radiant’, and the soaring close-out of ‘Don’t Try’.
Where ‘Man Alive’ was twitchy; itching to spit myriad melodies over tangles of super-complex riffs, ‘Arc’ shows a different kind of intelligence. It’s a far less ﬁdgety listen, but is no less quivering with ideas. Its composite complexities are shades of the same colour rather than spectrum opposites. And if that sounds pretentious (which it does), let’s put it another way: it’s really bloody good.
A very smart move indeed. But, frankly my dear, did you expect anything else?