On their fourth album, Everything Everything return with another progressive pop album full of bouncing energy mixed with feelings of estrangement with the world today. By blending catchy pop tunes with thought provoking subject matter, A Fever Dream feels particularly relevant.
Formed in Manchester, England late 2007, Everything Everything have made a name for themselves through their dynamic and eclectic approach to progressive pop. This has seen them gain critical acclaim most notably in their previous album Get to Heaven, where the tracks sounded as vibrant and eccentric as the cover suggested. Not only this, it also demonstrated how the band stand out as great songwriters for the album contained many meaningful and somewhat sombre lyrics about growing up, longing for the past, and regret. By successfully balancing these elements into their sound, Everything Everything provide accessible music that is relatable to young demographic.
However, one asset about Everything Everything that may not appeal to every listener is lead singer, Jonathon Higgs, lead vocals sung in a rather nasally falsetto. As one would expect this has not changed on A Fever Dream, in fact the band carry over many of their notable characteristics that have made them so effective in the past. The album opener is prime example of this, for the track features the same bursting energy as the opener on Get to Heaven, with a distinctive chorus proceeded by distorted synthesizers that really pack a punch. It also indicates a political theme to the album as the title of the track reads ‘Night of The Long Knives’ which is a reference to a series of murders carried out in 1934 by the Nazi Party. Although not as dark as title may suggest, the rest of the album continues with a socio-political tone mostly reflecting on the confusion we face in western society today.
Following the first track are ‘Can’t Do’ and ‘Desire’ which both featured as singles leading up to the album. It’s obvious to see why these were the ones chosen as the commercial tracks for they both feature a simple yet infectious chorus, following the same formula as their previous album. Despite this, it can be argued that ‘Can’t Do’ sounds overly safe in this respect with the hook becoming a little too perpetual for its own good and instrumental feeling like a B-side on Get to Heaven. ‘Desire’ on the other hand, whilst still could be faulted for similar reasons, is most definitely an improvement as the instrumental sounds fresh, exciting, and eccentric as you would hope. The same can be said about the lyrics that provoke weirdly comedic imagery such as ‘I’m just a knuckle-dragger with a knuckle-dragger grin / You took my mind and left a hollow twin’. In addition to this, the fast pace of the track finished off with the line ‘Can I tell you that I’m empty’ bellowed out by Higgs makes the track feel that more powerful.
Unfortunately, the album struggles at gaining momentum after the first track, with ‘Big Game’ slowing down the tempo, in fairness rather soothingly, however finishing with an instrumental break that sounds directionless and somewhat redundant. It is not until the second half of the album where Everything Everything really provide a series of great tracks that flow brilliantly into one another. This starts with the mellow, Future Islands type synth led track ‘Good Shot, Good Soldier’. Here, as well as other places on A Fever Dream, the lyrics portray a certain longing for truth and clarity, the type Father John Misty poetically described on his latest album Pure Comedy. Living in an era some have described as “post-truth”, the lyrics ‘If I’m wrong then strike me down’ and ‘If I’m right then light my way’ feel particularly relevant, especially when he asks what we can assume is God ‘Can you tell the difference? / Can you see it through all our eyes?’.
Moreover, the second single and title track is a definite highlight, acting as the perfect centre piece to the album. ‘A Fever Dream’ appropriately reflects the albums theme of disorientation in the world today with the track having an atmospheric trance to it that immerses the listener into a dreamlike state that is only enhanced by the repetitive ‘Lord I see a fever dream before me now’ sung almost hypnotically. Impressively, Everything Everything continue their streak with the fantastic ‘Ivory Tower’ which, either intentional or unintentional, feels influenced from Radiohead, most notably the album Hail to the Thief. The critique of the upper class stuck in their ‘Ivory Tower’ and lyrics such as ‘let me see you with your caps lock on’ directly calling out Trump, is exactly the kind of angst Thom Yorke might have sung, along with the spiralling chorus repeated over and over to a haze like effect.
After ‘Ivory Tower’, Everything Everything do well in rounding the album off with a short interlude type track just before the end. The track feels quite atmospheric yet minimal instrumentally and as a result of this makes Higgs and the listener feel alone in thought, specifically ‘Is there something wrong with all of this? Or is there something wrong with me?’, a relatable thought that many have had fade across their mind as of late. Finally, the album closes on ‘White Whale’, essentially explaining how his love for his partner is his motivator through all of this, and with this love he exclaims ‘never tell me that we can’t go further’ signifying optimism for the future. This slow burner of an outro may not feel as satisfying outside of the albums context but as a collective piece it is a wonderful ending.