Everything Everything has been building a really solid career throughout their nearly 10 years of existence. From the 2011’s weird, fresh and intense debut album Man Alive, to the melancholic, introspective Arc, the band has seen the career grow at a satisfying pace. The political, upbeat and angry Get To Heaven, featuring lyrics with darker undertones and melodies in that irresistible pop, brought a little bit more fame and recognition to the quartet. It wouldn’t take long for the Manchester band return, now on their fourth album: A Fever Dream.
Although there’s an expectation on more political content on A Fever Dream, since Get To Heaven clearly brought up topics such as terrorism and totalitarian leaders on the rise (after all the restless events that took place on planet Earth in the last two years, which resembled scarily what vocalist Jonathan Higgs had wondered in some of the lyrics) their follow up was something eagerly awaited by both fans and the wider musical scene. According to some recent interviews, the band affirms that events such as Brexit and Trump have influenced the record, although this time, the focus is on the human element and their answer to all this turmoil of facts and feelings the world is experiencing at the moment.
The first impressions of A Fever Dream came with the singles “Can’t Do”, the synth-pop dancing anthem where Higgs tells of the fright of not being able to complete the task asked (we’ve all been there), “Desire” follows this electro-pop atmosphere, but poppier, lighter, groovier and the sharpest lyrics on the fact that some people want impossible things instantaneously, not paying too much attention to the aftermath of events. The album title track is also revealed, showing that the band can change gracefully through dreamy and nightmarish atmospheres, from a candid piano ballad to a hypnotic and intense part, with synths and the lines “Lord, I see a fever dream before me now”- a hint of resemblance on Sufjan Steven’s Age of Adz in schizophrenia in song.
Those appetizers brought the tone of the record, but many other surprises fill it. The opening “The Night of the Long Knives”, is an intense track, with hints of R&B, with dense guitar solos and a catching “Shame about your neighbourhood” sentence tackling references about Brexit and alt-right in between the lines, just as “Run the Numbers” does- a clear reference to all those numbers being ignored somehow by all those powerful people, all of them wrapped up in an addictive rock pop, filled with an impressive math riff the guitarist Alex Robertshaw has delivered for the song. “Ivory Tower” play on the same note “We didn’t think that it would happen and we never will ”, hinting at David Cameron after the result of Brexit referendum, and many other references on the British elite, one of the most important moments of the album with the stuttering chorus, an intense guitar riff, tambourine drums, and another catchy sing along chorus. “Good Shot, Good Soldier” also brings the R&B and pop vibes with lyrics that mention the modern inequalities with many sharp examples. As “Big Game” presents a heavier atmosphere and simple child-like lyrics about the powerful man and childish decisions (which could fit perfectly for many politicians around the planet) heavy guitars just bring the final touch to the song
The album also delivers some serene moments: “Put Me Together”, a calmer song, featuring some really unexpected reverse effects along the song found mostly in the middle of it (when probably the nightmare kicks in) and Higgs soothing falsetto just like a lullaby meanwhile dropping some preconceptions about immigration. The storm that precedes the candid piano ballad “New Deep” with lines such as “Is there something wrong with all of this/ Or is there something wrong with me?”, is calm and beautiful and somehow uncomfortable with all the honest in it as it is followed by “White Whale”, a touching song about distancing from people, with an intense and delicate instrumental, and a child-like tone on the lines that repeats itself until it finishes the song.
A Fever Dream might at first sound lighter, not only with the content of the lyrics but also the melodies of the songs. Lyrically, most words sound easier to understand and even to memorize, although after a few listens, it’s possible to realize the darker tones of metaphors, Higgs has always written words to be deciphered by the listeners, but in this album, he shaped his writing with sharp and concise lyrics. Whereas for melodies, produced by James Ford (fingerprints spotted on the heavy-light atmosphere, seen also in Humbug by Arctic Monkeys), they are all very coherent inside of a dream, weighed down with the atmosphere, although kind of pleasant, in which the band built the songs, with a good use of elements that bring the nightmarish, intense and uncomfortable vibes (the synths on “Night of the Long Knives” or “Can’t Do”- or the hypnotic loop in “A Fever Dream”). , Although the horror and awareness of our geopolitical reality are present in the words and metaphors, the album offers a certain warmth, just like a hug, especially sonically. A light and real reminder that feeling empathic and human is also important.