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Everything Everything
Man Alive Simon Jay Catling , August 26th, 2010 14:15

Of the trio of Mancunian bands that have found themselves propelled into the nation’s consciousness as a result of BBC’s Sound of 2010 poll, Everything Everything have always been the most believable in reading out the pre-prepared post-legacy script. Delphic’s insistence that they look solely forward from the North West’s distinguished past is undermined by more than a passing resemblance to New Order. Hurts’ glimmering pop contains a bleak underbelly that’s – rightly or wrongly – been historically associated with many of the region’s musicians. But the fledgling singles from the third of the much-tipped triumvirate have come across as so far removed from this supposed lineage that for them to even point it out in interviews is hardly necessary.

Similar to last year’s breakthrough British guitar-pop group Wild Beasts, the core of the four-piece hark from a background of rural isolation pried open upon contact with a brash, confident urban music scene. However, whereas Kendal’s Beasts took a while to find their growl in Leeds’ bustling LS6 hub, Man Alive already finds Everything Everything oozing with steely assurance; it’s an aura of self-belief that manifests in a will to take a template of readily hummable radio-chumming tracks and do all possible to stretch, twist and re-organise them without breaking the boundaries that help retain their shape. Disarmingly bold for a first album maybe, but refreshing too, at a time when the idea of four blokes with guitars making dynamic, vital popular music on this isle was beginning to look like a sop for the talking heads to reminisce about. They don’t always get it right, but then equally they rarely sound anything less than sure about where the paths they’re following are heading.

The awkward ‘Two For Nero’ is the one instance where they sound slightly uncertain, a harpsichord and lone vocal stumble around before mercifully embracing an outro of looped harmonies and shimmering cymbals. They tail off into similarly melancholic territory towards the album’s end, which also feels like a wrong turn. The piano-led shrill balladry of ‘Nasa Is On Your Side’ and the wistful panorama of ‘Tin (The Manhole)’, in truth, suffer from their placing on the track listing rather being flawed as songs. The latter is, in fact, an undoubted highlight of the album’s quieter moments.

Because Man Alive is an LP of dynamics, and for all the delicate production and open space of their more reflective moments, Everything Everything are at their best when condensing their various threads into tight balls. ‘Photoshop Handsome’ and ‘Suffragette Suffragette’ have been knocking about a while of course, but their bright and buoyant melodramatics are nevertheless welcome on an album containing surprisingly few moments of unbridled euphoria. The latter’s chorus of “who's going to sit on your face” will raise a few titters in student unions around the country sure, but it’s a red herring. Tawdry allusions to illicit affairs and relationship strife sit alongside innocent nostalgia for school days and Sega Mega-Drives, a stream of consciousness being strewn across the canvas.

It’s the most uncontrolled aspect of an album that, for all its competing elements, never feels like it wriggles completely free of its creators’ grip, ensuring that at times they come across as stand offish and cold. ‘Final Form’ blusters through with nary a glance at its surroundings while ‘Schoolin’'s initial surge is tempered with a withering stare. Overall though Man Alive amounts to a promising debut, one which validates Everything Everything’s Mancunian post-legacy stance; ironic though really, because in their refusal to stand still and explore themselves creatively, they’re echoing the city’s past rather more closely than they might think.