Everything Everything - Re-Animator
Sep 11, 2020 (updated Sep 13, 2020)
80
They've only gone and done it again!

I'll refrain from my usual extended preamble in which i go over artist history or my personal connection to their work. However i will simply say i've been a fan of Everything Everything for years now and 5 albums deep, i'm yet to be disappointed.

Re-Animator sees the group looking a little more inward than usual, as much of the music here doesn't jump out in quite the same esoteric and visceral way that grabbed the attention of many fans up to this point. Not completely gone though, as just about every track here happily pushes the boundaries of Pop in their own way, through interesting melodies, harmonies, rhythms and tones. All wrapped up in neat and easy to consume packages of some of the best guitar-synthesizer based Pop and Rock you'll hear all year.

In fact i'd say that EE are pulling from the exact same bag of tricks and pulling from the same influences as before, but this time they are switching up which tricks and influences get to take centre-stage and which take more of a backseat. In this case i can hear a fair bit more of the Michael Jackson, Destiny's Child and Timbaland that the band have mentioned in interviews from as early 2010, around the release of their debut. They are still obviously influenced by Radiohead as well as bits of Prog-Pop and Math-Rock, but for the first time i can easily see pieces of all they've mentioned on the first run through.

This interesting mixture comes together as the grittier moments are toned down just a little in favour of more melodic and harmonic exploration, in fact i think this record has the best vocal harmonies the group have ever done. The softer nature of many of the songs also highlights the many little production tricks, the short guitar and synth riffs and the atmospheric pads that would usually get lost amongst the chaos of previous albums.

The introspection is found even more so in the lyrics as the band decide to take a look at an unusual hypothesis within human psychology. The Bicameral Mind is an idea that early humans were unable to tell that there are conscious and sub-conscious parts to their brains and would believe that the voices in their heads were "gods" commanding them, something that can seen in people suffering schizophrenia today. The hypothesis also states that at some point in human history, as recently as 3000 years ago, humans evolved to understand themselves.

These ideas can be found all across the record in references to split brains, grey matter and lost minds. Jonathan Higgs uses his usual narrator-style lyricism, taking the place of people in a modern society (i.e. ours) that are dealing with a bicameral mind, hearing voices in their heads they mistake for someone else's.

Big Climb is an early standout in the tracklist, Higgs' vocals are at their most urgent, stuttering in the verses and reaching a fantastic melodic climax in the choruses. The music is as wonderfully bombastic as anyone could want or expect from the band, with shifts and transitions punctuating the aggression in Higgs' singing and the darkness in his lyrics. The song seems to be about the end of the world, climate change, how our own technology led to this and the idiots who are ignoring their own impending deaths:

"Big climb, big fall
I saw my picture in the crystal ball
Big climb, big fall
The pink piggies with their hands on their ears"

Arch Enemy is another hit, a strong synth-bass-drums combo driving the track forward while interspersed guitar parts add little bits of extra technicality and melody during the verses. The chorus comes in and everyone come together to glide and sail in a weirdly beautiful way. The track closes on a fantastic and glitchy outro, crashing drums, synths and guitars thrown together manically, but splendidly. Higgs vocals are scared in the verses and melancholic but wonderful on the chorus. His character is someone hearing voices of greed and disgust in their head and believe it to be a god living in the sewers, literally made of fat and grease, rather than their own thoughts. They decide to worship it, asking it to destroy the world above:

"But you grew, you filled the cavern
You bided time
And from my mind you bled away
But I hear you calling and you come into my dreams at night"

Lord of the Trapdoor is driven by twin guitars in the left and right ears, playing different parts, but that come together wonderfully. Skittering drums and a soft but well placed bass take up the rhythm. The song starts out relatively quiet, but has a great crescendo, similar to Arch-Enemy. However the track doesn't end there, instead it continues pulsing and shifting before truly spilling its guts. Likely referencing the internet's ability to create incredibly niche and very dangerous groups, who usually wouldn't be able to come together, like incels, racists and conspiracy theorists:

"This is an island for right-handed men
We're bringing back hanging and bringing back eggs
Every decision is somebody's head
Full suit of armour and a dribbling mess"

In Birdsong is by far the best of the slower and gentler cuts here, the atmosphere built through soft synths, echoing guitars and heartbeat-like drums is magical. It also allows Higgs to completely take control vocally, letting him move from his quietest to his most powerful singing with ease and without distraction. The song is sung from the point of view of the first human who could understand themselves, who's mind connected together properly, which is why the music is so beautiful. For the first time they are able to recall the beauty of a bird's song in their own memories:

"There’s something in the white matter
Someone in the white matter
I hear song in reverse
Birdsong, song in reverse"

Violent Sun is a fantastic closer for the record, another fast-paced beat, the track is desperate. From beginning to end the song builds and builds to a fantastic crescendo. Synths and guitars picking up more and more while Higgs sings with greater urgency about an impending apocalypse, the sun's exploding, but he isn't focused on that, instead he's looking at his love and trying to enjoy those last few moments. It's not atypical for EE to end on a slightly positive note after a depressing round of songs, but Violent Sun is the most obvious as a love song:

"I wanna be there
When the wild wave comes
And we're swept away"

Black Hyena is my least favourite song here. Like a lot of the album, it tries a few new ideas, but i think this is where we see the most missteps. The chorus sounds very dry and unwelcoming, with the background synthesizer adding a very unappetising texture, this is also the song with the least interesting melodic lines, on just about every instrument. This is quite a pity, since this is the song the offers up the title of the album, possibly even the explanation for how the modern bicameral man came to be. Hit in the head, splitting their brain, but then brought back to life:

"I pray to start it tonight
A moron carcass arrives
On a banana peel he slips and breaks his brain in two
The master cracks into life"

On one hand the changes to the way the band wrote their music mean that it may take time for some of the songs to really reach an audience, as many of their fans are used to their previous style, this may record could easily be a grower. However, the more subdued nature of the project means that subtleties within the album are now more obvious out of the gate, rather than hidden away behind walls of bombast and chaos like before.
It's also important for me to say that while i do place importance on lyrical themes, which are brilliantly done here, i always connect more strongly with the music and as such am a little disappointed in this record when Get to Heaven and A Fever Dream both manged to nail lyrical and musical sections of their songs. This can be seen mostly in the softer, quieter cuts, as the only track like that which truly wowed me was In Birdsong, all my other favourites are much more similar to the group's usual, all-out energy.

Despite my reservations, i genuinely really enjoyed this album. It does a great job of combining its lyrical themes with the music and even if i didn't care about the words, the music is loads of fun. It's most likely that i came into this record with overly high expectations, but i do hope this project grows on me and if the group continues down this route, unlikely since they love to shift things around a lot, i'll be more appropriately ready for it.

Favourites: Big Climb, Arch Enemy, Lord of the Trapdoor, In Birdsong, Violent Sun
Least Favs: Black Hyena
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