Oddball alt-rock isn’t exactly an in-demand genre anymore. When British four-piece Everything Everything arrived on the scene with their debut Man Alive in 2010 they were surrounded by plenty of others delivering weird but accessible hipster music - Noah and The Whale, Wild Beasts, Friendly Fires, Klaxons. While Wild Beasts have continued their career-trajectory the others have faded into oblivion.
Given the rate of extinction for alt-rock bands of the late 2000s, Everything Everything, to their credit, sound remarkably relevant. On Get To Heaven they borrow experimental electronica elements of today and blend it in with their brand of alt-rock, which has always sat just slightly out of the box anyhow.
Their 2013 LP Arc was a breakthrough for the band. It pleased critics and also saw them shoot up festival bills as they refined their oddities to deliver singalongs like Cough Cough. Get To Heaven is not an overly different listen but there’s another dimension to it. There’s far more electronic moments and as such, it’s a bassier, more colourful record.
That’s both a blessing and a curse. Distant Past nails the balance and is their most personable record to date - a boisterous lead single. Other times they turn that odd-metre just a little too far like on Spring /Sun / Winter / Dread where frontman Jonathan Higgs manages a Limp Bizkit-esque rap.
Get To Heaven may be aesthetically colourful but its subject matter isn’t. It’s a record that explores people’s many beliefs and the violent state of the world. Speaking to NME frontman Higgs reflected on a violent 2014, in particular on US teen Elliot Rodger who killed six people in California. He explained why they named the LP Get To Heaven saying, “You go through all this horror, and as this ‘fuck you’ to the perpetrators, why not give it a really nice title? I wanted to try and rise above it and defeat that horrible shit with hope.”
As such, there’s two key emotions to the album - anger and hope. On Get To Heaven, Higgs sings “As the tanks roll by / Under a blood black sky / I’m thinking “where in the blazes did I park my car”,” with a kind of sarcastic frustration. On Zero Pharaoh the anger turns to violence (“Why don’t you smash him all up / Give me the gun…”). We’re relieved of that pent up emotion on the last track Warm Healer where he sings, “Just take a look outside the walls / And try to tell me something that’s good man.”
The latter ends with a beautifully uplifting synth of sweeps that bring the album to a mighty finish. If you’re going to present such weighty ideas, it’s always a relief to feel the light flickering through the clouds at the end.
In terms of the instrumentals, they’re not half as dark. Spring / Summer / Winter / Dread is pushed along by a tropical guitar-line and a killer hook. Blast Doors also has a playful guitar-line that recalls the early youthfulness of Blast Doors. In saying that, there are also songs like Fortune 500, which sound as if they were tailored for the Game Of Thrones soundtrack complete with dense, war-like horns.
While there’s plenty of fun to be had on Get To Heaven, it’s the sprawling moments of beauty that really stand out. The opener To The Blade is rooted by a gentle synth that elevates the melody and gives it a morning glow of sorts. The minimalistic moments on the album are the one’s where their songwriting is magnified and Higgs’ voice is showcased in the best light. Album highlight No Reptiles is an example of this. Built upon bubbling bass, Higgs’ wanders through with his soft falsetto, singing lines like “Just give me this one night, just one night to feel like I might be on the right path.” As the flickering synth comes in at the end, it feels both personal and triumphant without overwhelming with rock n’ roll guitars.
For an albums that deals with so many dark notions Get To Heaven is actually a thoroughly enjoyable listen. There are moments that really grab at the heart and there’s also songs that will cater will to sweaty, dance-ready festival crowds. There aren’t enough songs that stand on their own as well as some of Arc’s standouts did, but it’s an album that adds to the band’s capabilities without straying too far from their trademark sound.