Everything Everything have only made one blatant mistake on “Man Alive”; it wasn’t released in 2006. Sitting in 2010’s strange stable of musical fads, and without a chill waves or lo-fi in sight, you could be forgiven for seeing them as slightly out of place. But you shouldn’t do. Undoubtedly they’re not the most fashionable of bands. Radio 1 like them far too much. They’re signed to a major label. Their gigs probably contain more than one attractive teenage girl, which, as you will all know, is one too many for the pretentious and discerning muso. But “Man Alive”, for all its staunch refusal to conform to these fashions, is a gloriously conventional record. That they chose to open with “MY KZ UR BF” is as much a clear statement of intent as you’re likely to get from them; “Man Alive” is packed with hooks, and unless you are amongst the most pretentious of music fans then this can hardly be seen as a problem.
Elsewhere they are far more restrained, however, and its this restraint that saves “Man Alive” from the same fate as so many indie rock bands. “Tin (The Manhole)” is the finest piece of music on the album, a starry-eyed paean to, apparently, a fox. We won’t question their motives. Most surprisingly, although the album is more accessible than a scouse woman after half a bottle of vodka, it would be a challenge to pick another single after those that they’ve already released. They’ve got the balance between big pop songs and the more introverted lyric-driven tracks absolutely right, and the album is far more interesting and unselfconscious as a result.
Year of release aside, the only enormous complaint to be made is of portentous album closer “Weights” which sounds just as embarrassingly earnest as it did as the closer to their live set, although the lyric of “I can tell you how this ends” after 5 directionless minutes takes on a satisfying new vein of irony with repeated plays. They’re easily forgiven though, as the rest of “Man Alive”, without managing to be ambitious, is an enormously fun album that the posturing muso in all of us can quietly enjoy in the knowledge that it has just enough depressing songs to not even be a guilty pleasure. Whether or not “Man Alive” will slowly turn Everything Everything into the platinum-selling band that the BBC Sound of 2010 and their record label envisaged, I could not possibly say, but neither would I want to – “Man Alive” has enough quirky twists and turns to keep us interested whilst they slowly work out where they’re going.