Review: Everything Everything’s ‘Get to Heaven’ is not what it seems

Little has excited me more this year than the return of Everything Everything to the pop fore. Distant Past was the single that ended the Manchester outfit’s two year silence in February, and it epitomises what the band are all about. Frontman Jonathan Higgs‘ typical brand of pseudo-rap verse precedes a chorus that you won’t easily evict from your brain, while the instrumentation is, in turns, as sparse as it is chaotic.

In fact, that notion is true for the entirety of the album, as it has been for their previous releases – 2010’s Man Alive and 2013’s Arc. But, Distant Past and one or two other tracks aside, the band’s third album is remarkably dour. And I don’t mean that it’s an entirely miserable album. In truth, it doesn’t feature the same fragile, morose moments as its predecessors (think Tin (The Manhole), The House Is Dust and Undrowned), but that’s what’s so powerful.

Man Alive was something of a light/dark dichotomy, with tracks like MY KZ, UR BF and Photoshop Handsome offsetting the gloom of the album’s more introspective components. Arc was less incongruous, bridging the gap with Feet for Hands, Armourland and a number of others. Get to Heaven sees the two sides of Everything Everything become one, with no discernible line between their up-tempo pop numbers and their moments of wistful, falsetto-littered reflection.

To the Blade is deceptively fierce. It begins with Higgs’ solitary, delicate lilt (is that the tune of Come Alive Diana?) before he and guitarist Alex Robertshaw shred to an extent rarely heard from Everything Everything. That tempo is maintained by Distant Past and the title track. Get to Heaven even introduces a gaudy whistle to distract from its grim lyrics, which focus on the perverse absurdity of first world problems while, distressingly, there are people desperate to ‘get to heaven’.

Regret is a pounding, intoxicating song about missed opportunities, wasted lives and bleak outlooks, the misery of which is shrouded by chanting and a ceaseless, defining rhythm. Particularly striking are Spring/Sun/Winter/Dread and  The Wheel (Is Turning Now), wherein the eerie line ‘Do you want to know how far you’ve come?’ is repeated above a dull, synthesised warble.

To my mind, No Reptiles mirrors the intricate lyricism and eventual crescendo of Duet, with Higgs’ captivating falsetto swarmed by insistent strings and percussion. It’s one of the more restrained cuts from Get to Heaven, yet it still emphasises the fusion of pleasure and pain that characterises Everything Everything’s complex, indefinable third album.

That fusion has resulted in a collection of songs that attended the party, eyed the punch warily, then went home early, sober and suspicious. They’re a set of sharp, intelligent reminders that, even sweetened by pop music, the world is a very serious place.