A more polished and focussed album than their previous efforts, 'A Fever Dream' is a triumph of eclectic sounds and memorable lyrics that makes for their best album yet
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As a band that has constantly strayed the lines between inventive and unusual electro rock and catchy, poplike songs, there was a lot of curiosity over which way Everything Everything would choose to go with their fourth album.
While their second album, ‘Arc’, took the more eclectic parts of their debut and accentuated them, 2015 began to tread more towards the mainstream every now and then (in terms of musical stylings at least) with a couple of hits destined to be chanted in crowded festival tents for the years to come.
While ‘A Fever Dream’ arguably carries on the trend of the latter with a focus on electro beats that wouldn’t sound out of place in the charts, it is by no means a betrayal of the originality and surreal sound that has come to characterise the Manchester band.
Rather than just building on the success of songs like ‘Distant Past’ which have proven a hit among the mainstream, Everything Everything have instead combined the quirky feel from their earlier work with a more polished sound.
While it sounds on paper like an album which could be inconsistent – with Jonathan Higgs cramming his imaginative and sometimes plain odd lyrics with the snappy guitar riffs and electro beats laid down by the rest of the band – it just works to create something up there with their best work yet.
‘Can’t Do’, the lead single on the album, is introduces a synthy beat and memorable, repetitive chorus that wouldn’t seem out of place being sung by night-club goers on a Saturday night, while ‘Desire’, perhaps fittingly considering the themes of wanting thing quickly which is constantly reference in the song, it the most instantly-gratifying tune on the album.
But that’s not to say they haven’t pushed the boundaries in other areas. ‘Good Start, Good Solider’ is without doubt one of the highlights of the album once it leaves the soft, subdued beginning and erupts into a crescendo of deep synth and metronomic percussion with Higgs’ signature falsetto vocals over the top, while ‘New Deep’ samples sounds of a windy night for an unusual and unsettling penultimate two-minutes.
It’s Higgs’ lyrics that really stand out though. Tackling everything from Trumpism and Post-Brexit Britain in songs ‘Night of the Long Knives’, ‘Big Game’ and ‘Run the Numbers’ to providing social commentary a little closer to home with an attack on internet warriors in ‘Ivory Tower’ and questioning about Higgs’ ‘White Whale’ in finding affection – a tender number that’s the closest thing to a love song that we’ve seen so far.
The charm from these lyrics is how Higgs’ fits what should be awkward lines with the rest of the band’s arrangement and somehow makes everything work. Rather than each line being flowery prose, they are often a combination of surreal imagery and modern language that juxtapose brilliantly.
The meaning behind the lyrics constantly fluctuates between breaking out of the mundane, day-to-day life and taking what you want regardless of the consequences (“I am a pencil-pusher with the pencil pusher blues” in ‘Desire’), contemporary references about the larger-than life attitude of keyboard warriors (“I want to see you with the CAPS LOCK on” in ‘Ivory Tower’) to a mocking of the Alt-Right mentality in ‘Night of the Long Knives’ (“And they say it’s a wave, like a dribbling mouth. There is light bulb that flickers but it never goes on”).
The latter encapsulate Higgs’ thought process throughout ‘A Fever Dream’ – even the album title itself is a reference to how strange the world around us has become – but instead of moaning about the horrors we appear to be heading towards, the narrator in each song prefers to poke fun at those who have steered people this way and belittle their impact. It makes the album even more enjoyable on repeated listens as new layers and sweeping metaphors become clear.
The rewards that delving further into the depths the album offers combined with some instantly memorable and gratifying tunes makes ‘A Fever Dream’ one you’ll be happy to be absorbed by again and again.
‘A Fever Dream’ is out now via RCA Records. The album’s full track-listing is as follows…