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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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Best of 2012: Kemosabe by Everything Everything

[youtube http://youtu.be/TKKMfJ8cZoQ]

It’s not actually out until next year, but the second single from Everything Everything’s second album Arc has been doing the rounds since late October, and man, is it addictive. The “at the border, at the at the border” refrain makes it one of their catchiest moments to date, while that chorus “Kemosabe, I’m alone” is at once euphoric and desperate. Plus where else do you find the line “I’m genuflecting in a penitent way”? 2013 is already up on 2012 for having the official release of this.

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Everything Everything – Cough Cough

So, new Everything Everything. Previewed this week, Cough Cough is the first taste of their second album, and ooh, job well done. The video might be a bit off-putting (subject relevant or not, the footage of the London riots feels a bit tokenistic amid black and white artsiness), but even for a band as forward thinking as Everything Everything, it’s a slap in the face and then some. Urgent, almost unfathomable and utterly alive. The new album arrives in January – this is going to be one hell of a wait.

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The Mercury isn’t Everything (Everything)

Everything Everything

Tonight we find out who has won the Mercury out of Adele, Elbow, Katy B, the jazz man and a few others. The odds are on for one of the more left-field albums to scoop it this time, but chances are it may well go to Adele. Who can say? As long as it doesn’t go to Elbow (sorry, but Build A Rocket, Boys is just not good enough) or Tinie Tempah who, as part of 6Music’s excellent Complete Mercury’s season, revealed that he had been inspired to make music by So Solid Crew’s 21 Seconds.

On this year’s list, Everything Everything’s Man Alive outshines everything. The Mercury Music Prize is meant to represent an album of unparalleled craft, and that can be said of few other contenders this year, perhaps with the exception of PJ Harvey (who has already won). Man Alive, however, is a study in invention, an exploration in sound, particularly rhythm. At no point on that album does any one member of the band do what you expect, and if that’s not worthy of a prize…

Take, for example, Schoolin and its baffling final minutes. Around 2 mins 50, everything drops out, and a frantic, rippling, impossibly intricate guitar riff starts (not a sample, incidentally – guitarist Alex Robertshaw plays it live). Jonathan Higgs howls something. Then the drums kick in, battered, off-beat, almost Caribbean in feel, and on top of this, a syncopated bassline. All going on at the same time, all fitting around each other like this makes perfect sense. The months of practice that must have gone in to managing to play it live, and this is two minutes’ worth of music. This is before mentioning the glorious Qwerty Finger (the breathless, towering chorus collapsing into the half-speed breakdown is one of the finest musical moments of the past year, and it’s a satisfying title to type too), Nasa Is On Your Side’s ping-ponging melody or the beautifully deployed trumpets on Come Alive Diana. This is a genuinely outstanding band who have created a surpassing album. Is it better than Metronomy, than Elbow, than  James Blake? Infinitely. It’s so good, in fact, that you almost don’t want it to win. It doesn’t need the accolade: it’s already far more than any of the other shortlisted albums could ever hope to be.

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Mercury 2011

The first, natural reaction upon seeing the Mercury Music Prize nominations list is to have a shout about who has been carelessly omitted, and quite wonderfully, Wild Beasts are currently trending on Twitter as outraged fans do just that, but should we really be surprised? Over the past few years, the Mercury list has been embarrassingly predictable. The usual big breakthrough albums, a couple of obvious choices, the token jazz/world music act few people have heard of, and someone with an acoustic guitar, and the degree of outrage that this has happened again is unnecessary.

The big commercial hitters this year are Adele, with record-destroying second album 21, Katy B and Tinie Tempah. And fair enough. Big singles, big albums people have connected with. They’re not, perhaps, the works of art Mercury used to claim to endorse, but then neither was M People’s Elegant Slumming, and lest we forget that it received the prize in 1994. The token jazz act is there in the form of Gwilym Simcock (and oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the jazz act won? Just once?), while the ‘who?’ acts include Ghostpoet, Ana Calvi and, for anyone outside of Scotland’s central belt, King Creosote.

This year, there are two previous winners returning for the crown: PJ Harvey and Elbow. PJ Harvey is a fair enough shout – Let England Shake is her best album since 2001’s Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea – but a repeat nod for Elbow is unnecessary given that they won for their previous album, and the lumpy Build a Rocket Boys is already not ageing well. Twitter is also full of people moaning the Radiohead’s King of Limbs hasn’t been nominated, but here’s the thing: Radiohead do not need to win the Mercury Music Prize. They have long been established as the finest band of our generation, and since that they have been nominated without winning three times, giving it to them now seems pretty needless.

The deserving nominees, then, are Metronomy for the gloriousness of The English Riviera, and Everything Everything’s sublime Man Alive. But chances are neither of them will win. Looking back at the past few years, the winning act flip flops between the blindingly obvious choice and the least expected winner: 2004 – Franz Ferdinand, 2005 – Antony and the Johnsons, 2006 – Arctic Monkeys, 2007 – Klaxons, 2008 – Elbow, 2009 – Speech DeBelle, 2010 – omnipresent advert soundtrack providers The XX. So it could very well be Gwilym Simcock’s time to shine.

Ach, whatever, Wild Beasts were robbed.

Full list of nominees:

Adele  – 21
Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi
Elbow – Build a Rocket Boys!
Everything Everything – Man Alive
Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam
Gwilym Simcock – Good Days at Schloss Elmau
James Blake – James Blake
Katy B – On a Mission
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine
Metronomy – The English Riviera
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
Tinie Tempah – Disc-Overy

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Tea at 10.30

So in case you’re wondering, this is what the main stage at T in the Park looks like at 10.30am. We arrive at the site after a few wrong turns about 10.15, give our names, get our wrist bands and are pointed in the right direction. Minimal faff, which is always good, and it with the exception of a slightly muddy tramp to the gig, it isn’t really any different to any other guestlist place. Well, except for the fact I actually have to get on a stage and sing.

Healthy T tent

Healthy T tent. Not pictured: choir

We’re on early, in the Healthy T tent, so after a wander around the strangely quiet site, we find the Healthy T area and the rest of the Arches Community Choir for bit of a lyrical cram session and a mildly embarrassing vocal warm up in the middle of the area in front of a few bemused people.  And by the time we’ve done that, it’s time to go on stage, and so there isn’t really any time to think about what we’re doing, and more importantly, no time to freak out about it.

That the Healthy T tent is actually a rather lovely comfy place to sit works in our favour, and we sing to a decent crowd, even though it’s only 11.45, and plenty more people are standing outside. Our set goes well, the Miss Dynamite cover (I’m not joking – yes, it’s Dy-Na-Mi-Te) raises laughs in the right places, and the audience seems to enjoy it. We even have a drunken ned shouting stuff, dancing and air humping at the back during the last song, which is as good a T in the Park accolade as you could hope for, really.

Obligatory cheesy wristband photo

Obligatory cheesy wristband photo

So the rest of the afternoon (various factors led to this being a half-day trip) was spent trying to cram in as much as possible. The odd lunchtime slot is filled by Fun Lovin’ Criminals, and fluke timing means we get to the main stage just as they begin playing Scooby Snacks, complete with Fast mouthing along to the sampled Pulp Fiction dialogue. It’s now ancient and over-played, but the crowd loves it, as is the case with House of Pain: after an enjoyable enough but largely unrecognised set, they wear the albatross of Jump Around proudly, and the by now pretty wasted audience loses its dignity.

On the T Break stage, Kristina Myles is throwing herself into a bouncy set of what can only be described a decent funk-pop, while there is a lot to see on the BBC Introducing stage. Unfortunately, we missed the excellent Kid Canaveral but you can watch highlights of their set here.

Avoiding the main stage is crucial for most of the day, and despite our best efforts, snatches of Ke$ha and N-Dubz still find their way to our ears, but we head over to see the Manic Street Preachers. Their set is a list of crowd pleasers – Motorcycle Emptiness, If You Tolerate This, Faster, A Design for Life – and it’s executed with power and obvious passion, but on the tea-time crowd, it falls slightly flat.

Everything Everything

A not-brilliant pic of Everything Everything

Undoubted highlight of the is Everything Everything. Scheduled shamefully early, they still pack the King Tut’s tent and are effortlessly brilliant. They open with Qwerty Finger, note-perfect and almost unbearably intense: at the breakdown about two-thirds of the way through, Jonathan Higgs’ voice defies belief as it soars over the high notes. The quality doesn’t dip either: Suffragette Suffragette finds a new power live, while My Kz, Yr Bf and Schoolin prompt singalongs, an improbable feat given the complexity and sheer volume of their lyrics. On record, they’re absorbing; in the flesh, utterly exhilarating. For proof, you can watch a good chunk of their set on the BBC.


So that was my T in the Park 2011. I missed all the headliners (and Friendly Fires, but did hear their first song on the way to the car park), wasn’t drunk, didn’t fall in the mud and left while I was still positively predisposed towards other human beings, so it probably bares little resemblance to anyone else’s experience of the weekend.

View from the big wheel.

View from the big wheel, with looming storm cloud.

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