Everything Everything’s third album Get to Heaven thankfully does not veer far from their first two witty, dark records. This time around they feel very confident about their work and rightly so. In fact, it contains probably their hookiest pop song yet, the first single “Distant Past” and other flashes of danceable despair. Bass player Jeremy Pritchard told Digital Spy two years ago when planning this album, “We are just trying to think of shaking things up and moving out of our individual comfort zones anyway. It might be good for us to work a bit quicker and be spontaneous with it and not labor things too much.”
Not laboring things too much could not have been easy. Singer Jonathan Higgs’ steady falsetto belies what must be a constantly writhing snakepit of emotions under that surface decorum. We are given a brief peek at what’s slithering around on the floor in the dark. In “No Reptiles” he asks for “just one night, just one night to feel,” but from the sound of it he’s going to need a lot more than that to fit in all the feelings.
Going by his word-play lyrics Higgs seems uncomfortable with this churn of emotions and just as uneasy with physicality. He yearns for non-cerebral, pre-civilized dancing in the forest, feral nature in general, “red in tooth and fang” survival. He frequently references violence and gore (“Canine fangs about my throat / You’re bleeding over Eden like a goat / Tall blade dripping in every field / I’m blooming like a fuming human shield” and “Saw off all my stinking limbs / Blood dripping down my sunken monkey chin” in “Distant Past”) and murder (“I’m going to kill a stranger” in “No Reptiles”). Higgs said in their 2010 debut Man Alive that he didn’t want to be in the present. Well, in “Distant Past” he doesn’t want to flee the here and now to a simpler but more brutal time in history, not really. Not after he sees how difficult survival in raw nature actually is.
Neurotic doesn’t come close to describing Higgs’ dread-filled description of the world, politics (references to UKIP in “The Wheel (Is Turning Now)”, greedy capitalists in “Fortune 500,” and teenaged girls running off to Syria to join ISIS in “Regrets”), and vulnerability. Appropriately the music itself is replete with quirky time changes and complicated arrangements that would have every once and future member of Yes hiding under a table halfway through. The surreal, pressured, manically and frantically delivered (and sometimes indecipherable) lyrics often resemble a transcription of an insomniac’s racing thoughts in the middle of a 3:00 a.m. panic attack. Alex Robertshaw’s heavy, solid borderline-prog guitar keeps up with the churching pace, with stadium rock riffs and subtle Allan Holdsworth fills, coupled with keyboard and ‘80s synth-pop melodies that sound soothingly sci-fi at times.
Get to Heaven is, restlessness and all, their most accessible album so far. The songs are catchier and not as bitter or mournful as some of the ones on the album’s 2013 predecessor, Arc. Higgs is not going to crawl back into bed out of apocalyptic emotional exhaustion and depression, which is good, but maybe he should stop watching the news for a little while.
Get to Heaven (RCA) due out 22nd June.