Man Alive, by Everything Everything
Suggested by Peet Denny
What do I know about Everything Everything? Nothing Nothing.
A quick google sets me on the right path. A young rock band from Manchester. Critically acclaimed. Five albums, of which Man Alive is their 2007 debut. Mercury prize nominations. Art rock style, packed with melodies. A singer who delivers in falsetto.
(Just so you know, I only seek out this information after I’ve listened to the album. If I know nothing of the bands involved, I like to go in blind. Reading some of my reviews, you might think I also go in deaf, but that would be cruel of you to say, frankly, and I’m appalled at such personal abuse.)
So… Everything Everything. Are they so good they named them twice?
This band, and this record, are interesting. The music is delicate and detailed, and capable of flipping from point to point like an angry hummingbird. On some tracks it swells to take up the space, but on others it recedes to let the vocals breathe. When the tempo picks up, the bass takes the initiative and drives us toward the horizon.
There’s a definite trend towards the twiddly, the cerebral, almost a prog or mathy song structure, but it’s also quite naïve and innocent, like Rush done by schoolkids. This prog taint is never overpowering enough to poke your eye and send you packing, and such tonal shifts are well worked, generally grouped dynamically in single songs as to avoid anything too jarring. When the pace lifts, so does the engagement, and its no surprise that my favourite track is the cantering Photoshop Handsome.
By far the most intriguing, and definitely the most polarising aspect of Man Alive is Jonathan Higgs’s falsetto vocal. It’s certainly jarring, and unexpected. He whisps between a more straightforward style into a ghostly giggling frippery at the drop of a foppish tri-corner cap, and this massive affectation will be enough for a lot of folk to hoof their stereo into the sea. It opens up some techniques that you’d rarely see, aiding what’s almost a circular-breathing density of lyrics at times, and making the whole album seem close, almost intimate.
There’s a feel of an orchestrated Sparks about Man Alive, from the delivery to the lyrical content to the slightly disconnected, not-of-this-earth miasma that engulfs them. There’s definitely a pretension here, but whether that’s a turn off is entirely subjective. I suspect if the falsetto doesn’t get ya, you’ll be in for the long haul.
I’m torn on where to rate this. Musically, it ticks some boxes I never even knew I had on the survey, but I’m loathe to hand out plaudits like Skittles. As I said above, it’s an interesting album, so I’ll give it 6/10, noting that the falsetto delivery will be the fulcrum on your enjoyment seesaw, and will swing you either way.