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“Hold me on this night of the long knives” is the opening line to Everything Everything’s fourth album, and a thematic change is instantly clear. Using the historical Nazi purge as a metaphor, this track introduces an album which tells of the chaos of living in today’s worldwide socio-political crisis and potential dark images for the future. It warns of ‘floods on the street’ and ‘falling bombs’, and contains the particularly dark line “I’ve been dying all my life”. The dystopian messages are paired with a new bassier sound and heavier use of guitar, not seen on their previous albums, which adds to the frantic feel of this record.
This sound continues throughout the tracks, reaching a particular high during the grungy riffs towards the end of ‘Big Game’ where Jonathan Higgs (frontman) sings “you think we are fooled, but we are not fooled”- sending a message out to the leaders of the country, as an act of resistance. In general, the album has a more miserable tone, which I found surprising considering they found fame for their unique up-tempo, summery sound that earned them a Mercury nomination for their debut album ‘Man Alive’. The band recently said that tracks from Man Alive will no longer be found on their setlist, since the sound no longer fits with who they are. Therefore, this album fully represents how far they have progressed as a band.
Much comparison of Everything Everything’s experimental musical career has been made to Radiohead, which is no coincidence since their band name derives from the opening words of Radiohead’s album ‘Kid A’. And they channel the band’s later, more melancholic sound on the latter half of the album. The minimalistic ‘New Deep’ combines piano and synths, and restricts itself to the line “Is there something wrong with all this, or is there something wrong with me?” to create a gorgeous two minutes of self-doubt and societal critique, which is at the very heart of Radiohead’s work. And the delicate, more restrained vocals of Higgs on ‘A Fever Dream’ and ‘White Whale’ enables the band to put their messages across more clearly and leads to a very different, more relaxing, listening experience to that of their previous work.
However, their trademark up-beat pop anthems have not wholly disappeared, as the singles ‘Can’t Do’ and ‘Desire’ bringing some life to the perhaps less easy-listening album tracks. ‘Can’t Do’ is an indie dancefloor anthem where the band have successfully experimented with electronic rhythms, yet have used them to continue the frantic message of political chaos, but not too much that it cannot be enjoyed without thinking of the dark meaning. And listeners can similarly respond to ‘Desire’, a track that reminisces ‘Regret’ from their previous album. Finally, ‘Ivory Tower’ seems most similar to their unpredictable craziness that we are used to; a track that parodies the middle-class lifestyle and shopping at Waitrose, of all things.
‘A Fever Dream’ may disappoint fans who expect Everything Everything’s previous crazy, up-tempo sound, and there are moments in the album where it lacks that energy. But I see this album as a follow up to 2015’s ‘Get To Heaven’ which warned of catastrophe and things to come – benefitting from said sound. Whereas, ‘A Fever Dream’ is set in a miserable time where these events have happened and we are left with the consequences, and they can only be represented by a wholly different Everything Everything.
‘A Fever Dream’ is out now, via RCA Victor