If you believe what you read in the press, Everything Everything are a band destined for stardom, and well on their way up the ranks of the indie elite. They began their career in 2008 with the release of single ‘Suffragette Suffragette’, before cementing their existence with being shortlisted on the BBC’s Sound of 2010 award. Unfortunately, their hype will only lead to sore disappointment as debut Man Alive hardly raises the roof.
It should come as no surprise that the Manchester/Newcastle based band offer the same lilted delivery that propelled Futureheads’ self-titled to fame in 2004. However, there’s an unexpected element of pop, akin to Black Kids’ 2008 debut Partie Traumatic. This very nearly manages to compensate for frontman Jonathan’s chords, which at times offer a dog-whistle tone, piercing enough to shatter the most sturdy of ear drums. Nearly, but not quite.
Although opening track ‘My KZ Ur BF’ has a promising start, the verse that kicks in is weak, and the song soon erupts into an uncontrollable mass of askew limbs and spat lyrics. In stark contrast, the chorus and bridge are strong pieces of dance-floor gold. This contradiction echoes throughout the majority of Man Alive: following track ‘Qwerty Finger’ is an odd mixture of commercially acceptable instrumentation, and unconventional vocal operatic, bettered in the past by Animal Collective and Safetyword. It’s hard to grasp the concept behind the sound – as though the band are mid-charge on the mainstream charts, but have failed to leave behind the innovative creation that once inspired them.
Not to discredit their attempt in one fell swoop, moments of genius occasional swell through the mess: ‘Final Form’ follows a similar direction, but retains its structure enough for the subtle yet persistent guitar to make an impact for the first time. Elsewhere, ‘Leave the Engine Room’ examines Everything Everything’s potential in the stripped down electro arena. On paper, ‘Photoshop Handsome’ is a moment for celebration, but on record it’s marred by the frustratingly hysterical vocals. They’re the only aspect of the music hauling the band away from the line marked ‘acceptable and fun pop’.
After half an hour of medium to high-pitched warbling, Man Alive becomes tiresome and you wonder whether the tactic is the only trick the foursome has up their sleeves. The real crime is that if they didn’t resort to constantly using such a shriek, the album would be a decent and complete pop record, the like of which haven’t been seen since the heady days of 2003. As it is, if you manage to sit through the whole thing without squirming once, all credit to you.