( Sony) HHHIi
The Manchester-based Everything Everything attracted both applause and brickbats for their cerebral debut Man Alive some years back – and the love/hate response frequently came from the same people, this writer included.
For all their erudition and their willingness to push post-punk and dance-rock to their limits, there's been a po-faced, self-important whiff about the quartet that has proved off-putting – and distracting. This second album continues where Man Alive left off, although there is a sense of evolution, rather than treading water, on several of the tracks. Most notably, the band seem to have finessed the art of writing avant-garde songs with a commercial tendency. That's especially apparent on Armourland, which sparkles from start to finish.
Elsewhere, the soaring ambition of Bloc Party in their pomp is an obvious reference point, not least when the angular guitars trace all manner of inviting shapes.
And there are surprises too, not least the plaintive, spectral song, The House of Dust, which is quite unlike anything else they have previously released.
It's a melancholy number that doesn't reveal its secrets easily, but it's a composition to offer anyone who's dismissed the band as a hipster's folly.
Yet, there are problems: A handful of the tracks appear stuck in first gear and Jonathan Higgs's vocals can be terribly inexpressive at times. In the moments where it seems as though he doesn't care for what he's singing about, it's understandable if the listener will feel a similar ennui.
Key tracks Armourland; The House is Dust