A Fever Dream, the fourth album from Manchester’s Indie-electro-rock band Everything Everything, cites influences such as noise-based dance demon Ueno Masaaki, ambient anti-Christ Aphex Twin and House legend Mr Fingers. Their last offering, the resplendent Get to Heaven was their finest work to date: thematically and musically complex, it received multiple five star reviews and made the Mercury Prize shortlist. No pressure, then.
The band themselves have described the album as head music, inviting close listening to appreciate the intricate detail involved. But that’s not to say it’s a coffee table album. There’s enough here to see you cutting up a rug, playing along on air guitar and trying to hit the high notes.
Opening track ‘Night of a Thousand Knives’ kicks off like they’re angling to soundtrack Bladerunner: 2049. Neon beats, a near-hip hop lyrical delivery and a ‘How soon Is Now’-esque synth hook make this a strong contender for their greatest work. It’s a cracking start.
It doesn’t let up either as those House Music influences bleed through on lead single, and recent VultureHound Track of the Day, ‘Can’t do’ as well as the title track. But whilst the former sounds like an old CHOON you danced to back in the day, ‘A Fever Dream’ is a beautifully built, euphoric affair, carried on the crest of rich piano chords.
On ‘Desire’, producer James Ford (Simian Mobile Disco), stacks vocals and harmonies so high that it makes Queen sound modest and reserved by comparison; a sentiment shared on ‘Good Shot, Good soldier’, which comes on like the centrepiece of the album. It’s reminiscent of their previous album’s ‘No Reptiles’: epic in ambition, ebbing and flowing from a full-frontal assault to a bare acapella.
Those who thought Get to Heaven was overwhelming and aggressive aren’t going to find respite here. Any frivolity is long-since confined to their debut album; since then they’ve traversed depression, terrorism and the trappings of social media. A Fever Dream builds on these themes in new, experimental ways both lyrically and musically; it howls the horrors of the world in your ear, but then holds your hair and strokes your back.
There are guitar grooves to be found on ‘Run The Numbers’, giving off a Tantrum Against the Machine vibe, complete with “how does he do that?” solo, channelling prophet of rage, Tom Morello. This isn’t quite so successful on ‘Ivory Tower’ though, which whilst busting the riffs out, may have made a better B-Side. It’s is like the bratty little brother of the serene successive ‘New Deep’ and ‘White Whale’. Having said that, it’s an earworm that’ll bug you for days. ‘Put Me Together’ is hallucinatory and sprawling, with a glorious middle eight in which the band appear to drop their kit down the recording studio stairs. It’s enough to give you a big, shit-eating grin.
With this in mind, whilst it’s heavy going, it’s by no means joyless. In a style redolent of Morrissey and Thom Yorke, vocalist and lyricist Jonathan Higgs subverts everyday, if not a slightly aged turn of phrase to jarring effect: lines such as “someone’s gonna pull your big trousers down” and “shame about your neighbourhood” all take on an uncanny tinge through such a modern lens.
From sweet dreams to sleep terrors, how many good albums does a band have to make, before it can be said they don’t make a bad album?
A Fever Dream is out now on all formats via RCA (yes, even cassette).