If the past is a foreign country then Everything Everything are music’s arch-xenophobes. Man Alive arrives at last as the accomplished and relentlessly forward-looking debut we always knew it could be. This is genuine musical postmodernism: comprehensively informed, restless, full of mad juxtaposition. Where Radiohead’s postmodernism once came manifest as paranoia, alienation and technophobia, the Everything vision is a relentless thirst for stimulation, data, the ideas between other ideas.
The tracks you already know have new life breathed into them in the context of a full album. ‘Schoolin’’ is the brilliant earworm of white-boy r‘n’b meets X-Files theme. Old favourite ‘Suffragette Suffragette’ flaunts its dirty AC/DC riff like the bad tattoo you got in sixth form that suddenly feels cool again. ‘MY KZ, UR BF’, the greatest of four singles to date, takes its rightful place as album opener while ‘Photoshop Handsome’ spins addictive juddering Commodore 64 prog.
Jonathan’s Bowie-esque cut ‘n’ paste lyricism complements defiantly broad song structures, with their unexpected turns and eclectic layers of sound. It can sometimes seem like everyone in the band has at least two jobs, but blissful workouts like ‘Leave The Engine Room’ or the frenetic ‘Come Alive Diana’ can effortlessly give way to the tonal singularity of ‘Tin (The Manhole)’, which breathes four and half minutes of touching ambience through the album’s mad tapestry, or the sweet chamber harmonics of ‘Two For Nero’.
‘QWERTY Finger’ reminds you that, if they absolutely need to, they can, ‘rock’ in something like a traditional sense while ‘NASA Is On Your Side’ would make Kate Bush or Peter Gabriel proud, never mind any of their younger peers. ‘Weights’ is probably the greatest closing album track since ‘I Won’t Share You’ saw The Smiths go out in a veil of tears. Thank God this is just the beginning of it all.
Everything Everything have more than made good on a self-imposed remit to avoid cliché at all cost. The past is a foreign country after all, and modern life really is rubbish. Despite all that, Thom Yorke once proffered that you should ‘be constructive with your blues’. I would guess Man Alive is that record.