Album Reviews

Everything Everything – Raw Data Feel

(Everything Everything / AWAL) UK release date: 20 May 2022

Turning to AI for a new lyrical perspective, the band’s sixth album brings together phrases from Beowulf, 4chan, the teachings of Confucius and the complete terms and conditions of LinkedIn

Everything Everything - Raw Data Feel Technology is playing an ever-greater role in the production of pop music. That may be an obvious statement, but in an age of over-exposure to the media we have at our disposal, bands are finding increasingly imaginative ways to harness its power and even its humanity.

While writing their sixth album, Everything Everything turned to AI for a new lyrical perspective, using the restrictive conditions of recent lockdowns to their advantage. Musically, the band took their lead from modular synth writing, working on the laptop of guitarist Alex Robertshaw to bring their ideas to life.

With the music gathering pace, the band plucked randomly generated phrases from Beowulf, 400,000 4chan posts, the teachings of Confucius and the complete terms and conditions of LinkedIn. While using these sources could have led to a disconnection from human emotion, the end result could not be further from the truth.

“I feel alive,” proclaims singer Jonathan Higgs on I Want A Love Like This, his falsetto hitting the heights. The music strains for greater things, in spite of the admission that “someone always dies when we do this”. Bad Friday has a similar theme. “How did I get this blood all over me?” he sings, before the chorus, “Could somebody give me an answer, that shape-shifter coming for me”.

If albums had word counts, Raw Data Feel would be up there with the biggest, but the randomly generated lyrical couplets fit hand in glove with the written ones to bring pockets of deep emotion, told in the band’s characteristically intricate style.

The music is as instinctive as its ‘back of the van’ approach implies, an electro base offering a flexibility that the band warm to. Pizza Boy has a funky turn of phrase even Hall & Oates would be proud of, its lithe groove a memorable bed for a catchy vocal. At the other end of the tempo spectrum is Cut Up!, which flickers as a Simian Mobile Disco track might. Its minimal textures are the ideal complement to tracks like My Computer, a richly layered song that powers forward with the couplet “You’re in love with the future”.

As always with Everything Everything there is so much to unpick lyrically, meaning the songs are still revealing their true thoughts four or five listens in. Some are more direct. “They don’t give a flying fuck about us”, notes Metroland Is Burning, alongside the revelation that “I’ve been drinking this since I was eight or nine”. Jennifer looks at banishing a set of painful times, its subject having gone “headlong into that whispering wall”. “The pain in the end is all in your memory”, responds Higgs, to the accompaniment of soft backing vocals and a delicately spun slide guitar.

It is one of a few notable songs where the band takes their foot from the pedal, ensuring not all their songs are shot through with high levels of nervous energy. Kevin’s Car is a sensitively woven tale, a rather beautiful reverie in the context of the whole album. Born Under A Meteor is similarly thoughtful, though its chorus brings an unexpected parallel to a-ha’s Take On Me. Leviathan is the closest to a ballad you could expect the band to get. Over a cool backdrop, Higgs sings of grief and loss in a record whose distance from its subject is striking.

Impressively, Everything Everything keep up the quality throughout the album’s 14 tracks, and a record that could have been too long proves ideally structured. Only occasionally do the lyrics over-elaborate, for on the whole they form distinctive and meaningful songs of substance. Higgs’s falsetto, twisting and turning, is a powerful instrument getting to the root of the lyrics, be they human or AI. Once again the band are finding ways to develop their art.

Six albums in and Everything Everything continue to find new ways of developing their art, and yet the feeling remains they still have an enormous amount of potential to fulfil. Raw Data Feel, one of their very best achievements, gives a strong indication they are getting there.

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