Text: Paul van der Zalm
Could a computer have written this article? Can a computer create art? Are we humans or are we dancers? These are some of the questions that might come to mind when listening to Everything Everything’s new album Raw Data Feel, released today. Although this is already their sixth album, that doesn’t make us any less curious, because this quartet always knows how to pleasantly surprise us. In 2017, for example, the four of them managed to surprise us with the hallucinatory album Fever Dream, after which they seemed to get closer to Radiohead in 2020 with Re-animator.
No less surprising was the 2019 Christmas present on which five earlier songs were revisited with the No.6 Orchestra. Due to COVID, a tour for the release of Re-animator was not an option, apart from a few rare performances in 2021 with their good friends in Foals. But instead of calling it a day, they actually pulled themselves together and put all their energy into recording Raw Data Feel. Not only did they experiment, but they also produced the album themselves for the first time, with guitarist Alex Robertshaw playing a major role.
Raw Data Feel is by no means a concept album, but the transformation of adversity into a positive experience can be seen as a common thread. This gives the album an optimistic tone, although the lyrics are mainly about what it means to be human and how to deal with it.
Often the lyrics are inimitable and everyone can give their own interpretation. This is particularly true for the closing song “Software Greatman”: for this song, singer-songwriter Jonathan Higgs put his own thoughts aside for a while and fed a computer program with, among other things, the classic story of Beowulf, the wisdom of Confucius and the terms of LinkedIn, and then translated the result into lyrics. But in a wider sense, this also applies to the album as a whole; according to drummer Michel Spearman, the album title refers to expressiveness “straight from the heart, the id rather than the ego”, like the stream of consciousness we know in modern literature. This results in tragicomic lyrics, for example in ‘Bad Friday’, the first prelude to the album in February this year:
“You must have bust me out of my head I’m wondering // How did I get this, blood all over me? // I got the pictures here on my phone mmmm // I can’t remember // (Was it a Friday night?) Was it a Saturday night?”
or take the following lines from “Pizza Boy” (supported by a live video):
“But time is fun when you’re just having flies, we can never go back // I’ll have a coke // I’ll have a Pepsi now // You are afraid // That you’re a Pizza Boy”.
Although the instrumentation of ‘Bad Friday’ is sparse (almost a capella), it is still musically representative. First of all, the whole album surprisingly often relies on disco rhythms such as we recently encountered, for example, with Working Men’s Club. Then, of course, there’s Higgs’ trademark falsetto, used here in staccato, but in “Born Under A Meteor(!)” stretched out over a slide and rock guitar background. The recurring elements are the question and answer in the vocals and chorus. And then there is the clever stacking of instruments and sounds that make the songs exciting. This is reinforced by the fact that the songs do not so much follow traditional song structures, but are more narrative in nature. There is also enough variation: “Metroland Is Burning” starts simple, but becomes more complex later on, “Leviathan” starts and ends with dissonance, but remains melodic in between, with jazzy vocals. Songs like “Shark Week” and “HEX” are a bit more experimental, while “Kevin’s Car” is bittersweet and similar to an artist like Rufus Wainwright.
The single ‘Jennifer’, also released today, is considered by the band members themselves to be a trip into sun-drenched Californian soft rock. The intro is a bit like ‘Take On Me’ by A-ha. The key phrase here is “Try it again / try it another way” and that’s why Everything Everything remains beautifully unconventional.