Mountainhead by Everything Everything album review by Gareth O'Malley for Northern Transmissions, The UK band's LP drops on March 1st


Everything Everything


Three albums in not even four years is very much the kind of thing that UK art-rock band Everything Everything would do. The Manchester quartet hit somewhat of a circumstantial speed bump on 2020’s RE-ANIMATOR; robbed of the opportunity to tour the record, they buckled down and resurfaced with the rejuvenated Raw Data Feel in 2022, an album that looked to AI for partial inspiration a whole year before that topic fully entered the discourse.

Taking ideas and running with them has long been part of the band’s DNA, with the hyper-personal approach of band leader Jonathan Higgs‘ lyrics on Man Alive and Arc gradually opening up—via the timely political ruminations of the masterful Get to Heaven and its intense follow-up A Fever Dream—leading to the blossoming of a writer with no expectations attached. Seven albums in, he and his cohorts Alex Robertshaw, Jeremy Pritchard and Mike Spearman sound as committed as they’ve ever been. If the knotty arrangements and head-spinning left turns of their early material are a distant memory, the band have since gone on to prove that outsized ambition and accessibility can exist hand-in-hand.

Just take the brief for Mountainhead, in itself an allegory for capitalism and material excess. Per Higgs: ‘In another world, society has built an immense mountain. To make the mountain bigger, they must make the hole they live in deeper and deeper. All of society is built around the creation of the mountain, and a mountain religion dominates all thought. … A “mountainhead” is one who believes the mountain must grow no matter the cost, and no matter how terrible it is to dwell in the great pit. The taller the mountain, the deeper the hole.’ 17 years into their career, a full-blown concept record about the need to create and consume, individual wants vs. collective needs and stark warnings of apocalypse? Long-time fans will be surprised they haven’t done this before, but what about the newcomers?

If this is your first Everything Everything record, the band picked a hell of a song as an introduction: ‘Wild Guess’ is quintessential fare, an extended instrumental build grabbing the listener by the throat as it welcomes them into the world of Mountainhead via Pritchard’s energetic bassline, Spearman’s dexterous drumming, and a scratchy, unhinged guitar solo courtesy of Robert shaw. It’s quite the arresting hook, and that’s even before Higgs’s vocals come in. Keeping up the band’s tradition of amazing album openers, the scene-setter stands out on a front half loaded with singles and potential singles.

‘The End of the Contender’, ‘Cold Reactor’ and ‘The Mad Stone’ slot into the album’s narrative neatly, with the latter’s post-chorus hook conjuring up images of the mountain itself: at the top is rumoured to be a mirror reflecting endless recurring images of the self. A clear shot at modern idol worship and celebrity culture, the song also expands on previously introduced themes like hierarchy, shameless grifting (“I’m a Mountainhead too—what is that, a religion?”) and the album’s driving force, the accumulation of wealth for its own sake by people who ‘get no pleasure from your pleasure centre in your reptile brain’. Elsewhere, ‘R U Happy?’ is another front-half highlight, a sweetly sad song (that still manages to keep in line

with the band’s ‘all bangers’ policy for this record) about wants vs. needs, the symbolism of the mountain exposed as ‘a lie’; for all this accumulation, what will be left? On the other side of the strings-drenched ‘TV Dog’, a short but impactful song that finds Higgs pushing his falsetto to breaking point, is a stretch in which the album comes into its own, providing deeper cuts that turn into hidden gems on repeated listens—every era of Everything Everything is represented here, but the record’s very much one they could only have made in 2024. ‘Don’t Ask Me to Beg’ and ‘Enter the Mirror’ find the band leaning into the most concise version of themselves, even as the former takes a left turn for an absolute slam dunk of a chorus. The latter’s the album’s release day single and finds them taking influence from dance pop with the song’s pulsing synths and percussion-driven break. “I love you ‘cause you’re smashing into everything” Higgs sings on the closest the album gets to a traditional love song, albeit one which is still connected to the album’s conceptual framework.

If there’s one thing about Everything Everything, they really know how to open a record; if there’s another, they really know how to close one—and things are brought to an unsettling, emotional conclusion with what may just be the best three-song stretch of their career. ‘Dagger’s Edge’ feels like a spiritual successor to 2013’s ‘Radiant’, building to a cathartic primal scream of an extended breakdown that may take your head off if mishandled—please proceed with caution. Penultimate track ‘City Song’ could serve as the album closer in itself, anchoring a beautiful, skyscraping melody to some of Higgs’s most anguished lyrics as the narrative hits a pivotal moment; the loss of the self in the search for something better, something perhaps unobtainable: “I called up the office, said I’m not coming in / They didn’t know my name / I didn’t know my name.”

Then, there’s the record’s actual closer ‘The Witness’—probably the most emotionally devastating song they’ve written in a good decade, written from the perspective of a Mountainhead who’s finally scaled the peak, and seen (or says they’ve seen) ‘blinding light, water falling’: “How could I know that if I wasn’t there?” It’s the song’s first bridge, however, that will get the waterworks going; cosmic coincidence and pure happenstance that wonders what it would have been like to never exist at all and the ripple effect thereof: “And you’re wondering if it would all be the same / If the pattern was different and you never got made / If you stood up in school and just burst into flame / And the closer you get you are falling away.”

It might be their best closer, and that’s no mean feat: dripping with melancholy, it’s a grand finale that looks inward for remaining sparks of hope, and finds them. The last line ties everything together: “I’ll always believe in you—endlessly.” It’s their own self-belief that’s brought Everything Everything to where they are today; they’ve never been content to scale the summit for its own sake just to say they’ve done it. Mountainhead is another remarkable entry into the quartet’s storied catalogue; one of the UK’s best bands once again showing everyone how it’s done.

Pre-order Mountainhead HERE


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