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Everything Everything and the One Day Like This effect

Maybe it was the decision to release it on 14th January, a traditionally quiet time for releases, but there was a palpable sense that people were waiting for Everything Everything’s second album, Arc.  Press coverage was pretty comprehensive, Kemosabe was never off the radio, and given that Man Alive was one of the most exciting and original debut albums in recent memory, expectations were high. And when you preview an album with singles of the quality of Cough Cough and Kemosabe, well, people are going to be waiting to hear what you have to say.

So, then, how has Arc fared? Well by all accounts – it landed in the top five. Torso of the Week is one of their best efforts to date, and the moment in Radiant when Jonathan Higgs’ furious shredded howl “it’s all I ever had” collapses into a crystalline chiming guitar is absolutely sublime, but there’s something wrong, and that can be summed up in one word: Duet. It is, said Higgs in an interview with the BBC, “one of the few proper songs I’ve written“. What it is is a massive string soaked concession of the heartbreaking proportions of Elbow’s One Day Like This: Duet was, in the week of release, already soundtracking montages on Match of the Day. It’s a pleasant enough song, nicely put together, but it doesn’t feel like an Everything Everything song. It feels like someone’s idea of what a band is meant to do to sound sincere, to mean anything to anyone, and from a band like this, it stings a little. Like One Day Like This, it feels out of character, and while of a higher quality than the likes of Coldplay’s Fix You, there’s no doubt it’s a stadium filler, the end of the encore, the money song.

In the same interview, Higgs deems Man Alive annoying, and other interviews around Arc’s release have seen the band say that they have made a conscious effort to write songs that the audience can sing along to. With this in mind, listen to Arc. The sheer volume of repeated lyrics is striking – not repeated choruses, choruses and verses made up almost entirely of the same line over and over. Ok, maybe it’s easier to make out the words on this album, but when you have a range like Higgs, accurate singalongs are still mostly out of the question. And it’s not like anyone went to see Jeff Buckley to sing along, is it? It’s hard not to sound a bit “oh, I liked their earlier stuff” on the subject, and the frustrating thing is that Arc is perilously close to being brilliant, but when the band have openly said that they’ve made concessions so that people like them better, it’s hard not to object. If they hadn’t been so conscious of people being able to sing along, there’s no telling what this album could have been.

 

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Inevitable rant about Coldplay

Amid a barrage of things we don’t need (a third Bridget Jones film, a Sex and the City prequel), Coldplay’s fifth album Mylo Xyloto is hurtling towards us at great speed.

It’s easy to have a go at Coldplay. They’re a bit smug. More than a bit bland. Chris Martin is highly irritating, particularly when it comes to pretending he isn’t married to Gwyneth Paltrow (not talking about your marriage to the press is fair enough, but pretending it doesn’t exist is just a little bit mental). Clocks has been played so often over the last nine years that it resembles a car alarm far more than a musical composition. But their most heinous offence, far worse than all of these things, is Fix You.

Fix You is, oddly, one of their most celebrated songs, but listen to it – really listen to it. It. Is. Horrendous. It has become a torch song, but what the hell is it about? Initially, comfort: I will try to fix you, lights will guide you home. But, and here’s the main grievance: said lights will indeed guide you home, but they will also ignite your bones. Follow the nice safe path home, dear, and you will burst into flame. And I will, you know, try to fix you. Seems unlikely, though, given that even your bones are on fire. There are also the smaller matters of the epic guitars which kick in about halfway through, simultaneously prompting a thousand bands with no ideas of their own to follow suit and ensuring a generation uses the word ‘epic’ incorrectly, the fact that the verse’s hook  is kind of the Pixies’ Where Is My Mind, and the narcoleptic delivery of the last word of every line makes it sound like even Chris can’t be bothered. But thousands – probably even millions of people holler along to it at festivals as if experiencing the rapture.

The thing is, though, that they’re not totally awful. Parachutes is still pretty lovely, for the most part; Viva La Vida’s strings made for one of the year’s best hooks, and The Scientist remains a perfect pop song with a genuine emotional punch. And they may very well surprise us this time round, rob us of our easy target, but tasters like Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall suggest they probably won’t. We’ve got a few months before it’s on every advert and montage though: enjoy it while you can.

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