Everything Everything - Raw Data Feel Music Album Reviews

Everything Everything - Raw Data Feel Music Album Reviews
Peppered with Star Trek references, meme humor, and lyrics generated by an AI trained on Beowulf and 4Chan, the English band’s sixth album is its nerdiest yet.

Everything Everything want you to believe that they are clever cultural critics. They costume themselves in Devo-inspired utilitarian fashion, almost always sporting navy blue boiler suits; they deliver emotion with a distanced and cerebral irony. The apocalypse interests them, as do computers, and on their records they’ve positioned themselves as outcast philosophers inquiring into subjects as broad as “the human condition,” “technology,” and “society.” On their latest album, Raw Data Feel, the band’s grandiosely empty, teenager-on-weed musings make a mockery of that haughty stature.

Raw Data Feel is Everything Everything’s nerdiest record yet. With its pew-pew synths, Star Trek references, and long since played-out meme humor (there’s a song called “Shark Week”), the band’s sixth album feels like music for a Minecraft convention. The biggest talking point has been the use of AI software to produce some of its lyrics: Lead vocalist Jonathan Higgs reportedly input posts from 4Chan, verses from Beowulf, and language from LinkedIn’s terms and conditions agreement. But what came out is indistinguishable from Higgs’ usual mix of boilerplate platitudes and garbled literary nonsense, especially since he won’t reveal which lyrics were AI-generated. The AI has no tangible presence, except as a reason to talk about this album at all.

Still an experimental technology, AI has been used in music by the likes of Brian Eno and Holly Herndon; Herndon, a scholar of machine learning, incorporated it into her 2019 album PROTO as a counter-narrative to the prevailing anxiety that AI might someday write humans out of the artistic process. Raw Data Feel offers no such critique or commentary. Instead, AI is a gimmick at best, and at worst a crutch, a way for Higgs to do less of the labor. This, to be fair, does play into the album’s main theme: Higgs’ desire to abandon the human brain and its capacity for holding pain altogether, to convert raw feeling into data by offloading his trauma onto a machine.

“Bad Friday,” the album’s best song, is about exactly this. Accompanied by brazen chanting and gung-ho grooves, Higgs describes a terrible violence inflicted upon him, rendering the incident with murky shards of detail. “How did I get this blood all over me?/I got the pictures here on my phone/I can’t remember,” Higgs sings, incongruously, over a chipper funk-rock groove. The song’s sustained and insistent beat sounds as though it’s chasing Higgs; he breaks out into an invertebrate whimper in the pre-chorus, a minor and melancholy refrain that tonally mirrors the song’s traumatic subject matter, before the band reestablish the absurd contrast between its violent nighttime content and jittery nightclub atmosphere. The trauma that bedrocks the song is quickly glossed over: The sound of a Windows 95 error message bonking after the choruses repeatedly disrupts any abiding sense of humanity.

The album’s production, helmed by guitarist Alex Robertshaw, is at least immaculate. Every sound is treated as delicately as in minimal techno, as though each was made to stand out on it own; the littlest synth line sparks, and the guitars gleam like a galaxy made of candy. Higgs’ vocals are clean and processed, his emotion as raw as a 3D-printed steak. It’s one of the only elements that really nails the band’s man-meets-machine brief.

“Jennifer,” with a wiggly, romantic New Order guitar line, is a particular highlight. In the verses, Higgs presents his protagonist: Jennifer, a suicidal woman and possible victim of domestic violence, who longs for an escape while all the exits appear sealed off. The despondency of the verses is balanced with a hopeful refrain, as Higgs encourages her to keep looking for a way out. With no brainy modular synths or cyborgian conceits involved, it’s one of the few songs that isn’t overwrought, and, incidentally, the only one that confronts trauma with a human heart.

Yet there’s no saving the album’s second half. “Metroland,” a sci-fi-meets-country track, keeps you at a barge pole’s distance with its kitschy schmaltz and nonsense lyrics: “Kevin can you imagine it?/The escalator breathing in a hydra bowl,” Higgs sings. Then there’s “Shark Week,” which contains frankly unforgivable lines like “He’s Obama in the streets but he thinks he’s Osama in the sheets.” You’d hope that these were the work of the AI. Perhaps they’re just an excuse to bring in some sort of interesting gadgets: Higgs told Apple Music that Robertshaw suggested that he write a song using certain chords, “because he had this special synth that did cool stuff with chords that had four notes in them.” Higgs tries to balance the zaniness of the verses with seemingly heartfelt refrains (“Do you think you got everyone under your control? When you haven’t got anyone, anyone at all”), but the sticky-sweet choruses merely curdle amid all that would-be acid wit.

Raw Data Feel might be the most confident album Everything Everything have ever released, but in a way that feels deeply hubristic. If this album were a person, it’d be that pompous, motormouthed philosophy undergraduate who treats seminars like extended soliloquies—believing in his ability to impart Earth-shattering truths, despite not really saying much at all. That guy can be endearing; he’s energetic and has an infectious interest in technology’s effects on the human spirit. But when it comes to expressing his ideas, much less his own emotions, he’s got a long way to go—not unlike the neural net Higgs used to write his lyrics.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Everything Everything - Raw Data Feel Music Album Reviews Everything Everything - Raw Data Feel Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on June 08, 2022 Rating: 5


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