How many pop bands are obsessed with the end of the world? Sure, Adele has the market cornered on break ups that feel like the end times, but how many groups actually focus on the apocalypse?
The funny thing about Everything Everything is that there’s always a sliver of unease running through their music. It’s all brilliantly catchy, expertly produced, and tight as a drum, but something’s just a bit off about it all. It may have taken a few listens to realize it, but the second single from their fantastic sophomore album Arc opened with the line “Four walls and a cauldron of Kalashnikoving / and our home is a trigger that I’m always pulling.” Yes, for all the pristine choruses and earworm verses, Everything Everything injects excessive violence, crushing depression and madness into the friendliest of their hits.
“Distant Past” is strange from the outset, with digitized bird calls and a Siri sound alike intoning the song title. Jonathan Higgs does his trademark mix of impossible charisma and unnerving mindset with his rapid fire delivery, but he sounds more unhinged than usual. “Saw off all my stinkin’ limbs / Blood drippin’ down my sunken monkey chin,” he sings, candidly revealing his not-so-hidden distaste for himself and humanity as a whole. Here’s where the band pulls off its best trick: instead of welcoming you with pop bliss, it forces you to go through the weirdness before you get the stratospheric payoff of the chorus.
And what a payoff it is. Michael Spearman excels, as always, on his mix of electronic and live percussion, making the chorus pulse with funky energy as Higgs launches his voice into that strangely strong falsetto. The build up to the final chorus is thrilling, thanks to Alex Robertshaw’s choppy guitar work and Spearman’s woozy drums laying the foundation for Higgs’ screaming.
You’d forgive a casual listener for mistaking the cry of “Girl I want to take you to the distant past” as lustful desires to get down like our ancestors, but “Distant Past” is about our habitual self-destructive tendencies. As Higgs puts it, “’Distant Past’ is about primal human nature, and no matter how far we progress in our civilizations, we can never escape it.” Cheery words, Mr. Higgs. But if the end is nigh, we might as well dance when the bombs start dropping.
Everything Everything’s new album, Get to Heaven, is out on 15 June via RCA in the UK.