The party piece of Everything Everything’s sixth album is that it was co-written by an AI called Kevin. However, beneath the gimmicks, the Manchester art rockers have created an hour of endearing summertime silliness.
Scour through the press surrounding Raw Data Feel and all of it will emphasise the same thing: Everything Everything co-wrote the lyrics of their sixth album with AI. The Manchester art rockers fed Kevin, as they call their autonomous “fifth member”, on a diet of Beowulf, 400,000 4Chan comments, Confucius quotes and LinkedIn’s terms and conditions. The goal was to “inspire” strings of pseudo-philosophical nonsense for their newest songs.
What a concept! Are the band lampooning the artificiality of pop and its pantheon of autotuned, photoshopped stars? Is music becoming so faultless and industrialised that they believe its future belongs to the machines? No.
Rather, frontman Jonathan Higgs turned to the cybernetic because he “needed to take some time off from the contents of his head” after the pandemic. Furthermore, only 5% of what Raw Data Feel has to say actually comes from Everything Everything’s computer. It seems that Kevin has had a much greater influence on its bandmates’ PR than on their messaging.
However, when you think about it, Everything Everything are the last people who’d need to outsource their nonsense lyrics. Remember that this is the band whose signature song, ‘Distant Past’, has the lyric “Blood dripping down my sunken monkey chin.” And Raw Data Feel is just as ridiculous. On “Kevin’s Car”, Higgs joyously declares “I’m sleeping in the back of your car!”, his whimsical falsetto juxtaposing the stalker overtones.
Ultimately though, what Raw Data Feel does (or doesn’t) have to say is superfluous, because its randomness is cast against a backdrop of top-tier synthpop. The album’s second single, ‘I Want a Love Like This’, rears its head early on and feels destined to be an oddball summer soundtrack. Its pre-chorus of “Someone always dies, someone always dies when we do this” would be the catchiest moment on offer – if it weren’t for the refrain immediately stealing its thunder.
Higgs’ vocals practically gleam, his loosely love-orientated lyrics balancing with the bubbling synths. It makes for a number that would be just as apt for a lovelorn teenager’s bedroom as for an Ibiza club.
Bad Friday stretches Higgs’ voice further, its hooks countering high-flying singing with spoken lows. It opens the floodgates in terms of Raw Data Feel’s eclecticism. ‘Metroland Is Burning’, for example, dives headfirst into post-punk. Its bass chops through the mix, complimented by dainty guitar notes. ‘Jennifer’ has the same string-led vulnerability, plucking out their own gentle melody that lives somewhere between surf, psych and indie rock.
‘Shark Week’ takes the cake for the most bombastic moment on offer. Equal parts symphonic and electronic, the track’s popping beat crumbles against the weight of swelling cellos. That is until synths and classical instruments find themselves in perfect harmony just in time for the chorus.
It’s far from the only track to lend an air of the epic to Raw Data Feel. ‘Leviathan’ is the five-minute-long centrepiece: a slow burn sandwiched between instant pop anthems. ‘Software Greatman’ – a title straight from the brain of Kevin – ends with similar scope. Commencing with naught but vocals and sly beats, it escalates in post-rock style until its conclusion with a dulcet earworm of a guitar lead.
So, no: Raw Data Feel isn’t the mainstream music parody that we might have hoped for from an AI-assisted album. But, while Everything Everything have stopped short of making an anti-pop swipe, they have summarised everything you could ever want from the genre. Catchy, eclectic and feelgood, this will be a supreme summertime player.