Written for The Music Fix.
Everything Everything have caused music writers a bit of confusion since their first release in 2008. Taking cues from acts in genres as diverse as r’n’b, Britpop and metal, the resulting output has tended to be mistakenly categorised as something other than pop.
The combination of frontman Jonathan Higgs’ unpredictable vocal leaps with spiky, mechanical rhythms cloaks some songs in an illusion of leftfield complexity, which falls away at the heart of their setlist, on upcoming single ‘Duet’. With simple melodic verses and a crashing semi-orchestral finale, they have the ‘Viva La Vida’ vibe down – moments like this will fast-track them into larger venues (and onto numerous BBC soundtracks, probably).
Ahead of the show, it isn’t easy to pre-empt how well their music is going to come across on stage. With each release, the Manchester based quartet has become better known for a style which rests on a few musical quirks, some of which might be expected to prove troublesome in a live context. Most prominent of these is Higgs’s voice, which flits between an insistent falsetto and a duck-like tenor; to a lesser extent, the band’s many-layered synth and guitar approach might seem liable to lose their subtlety in a club venue like Heaven.
Luckily, such fears turn out to be unfounded. Although Higgs’ voice does fade later on, it never cracks under the pressure of coming up against frequently dense textures. His opening performance – of quickfire lyrics that keep up with the florid synth triplets of ‘Undrowned’ – is really impressive.
Thanks to some admirable work at the soundboard, the arrangements as heard on the album are reproduced and bolstered – the heavy closure of ‘Undrowned’ takes on a more visceral element. None of the many various parts of ‘Cough Cough’ and (still their best song) ‘Photoshop Handsome’ are lost in the mix.
Throughout the show, Heaven feels like the smallest London venue Everything Everything are likely to play for some time. Sold out weeks in advance, the crowd gives a huge response all the way back: early in the set, ‘Torso of the Week’ is an unlikely target for a beery, octave-down singalong, but by the end, it surprises nobody when the announcement that their last song has come is met by a unanimous groan.