November 2008 – single & track reviews – Everything Everything’s ‘Suffragette Suffragette’; Solange’s ‘Sandcastle Disco’; William Control’s ‘Beautiful Loser’

24 Nov

Harkening back to 1980s art rock without being absolutely in hock to it, Manchester’s Everything Everything announce themselves with a single that puts a little fizz under the brain. Two stuttering guitars chatter over a rolling melodic bass part and tight disciplined drums; bursts of sweet harmonies offset awkward subjects. A super-literate wandering lyric repeatedly crosses back over its own tracks via wordplay, deliberate overthinking and self-mockery.

Thirty years ago, Everythings’ singer Jonathan Higgs – a brainy, twitchy, hectoring choirboy – could have slotted in neatly alongside post-modern post-punks like Edwyn Collins, Paddy McAloon, Green Gartside or Paul Haig, engaging deftly with more profound ideas and a brainier school of pop. These days he’s mostly got Alex Kapranos for company; but what sets him apart from his forebears and peers is that tone of a febrile urgency only just held in check. Everything Everything definitely have a sense of humour, but it’s also pretty clear that they pick serious matters, appreciate them, and choose to siren them out in a scalding and beautiful falsetto.

‘Suffragette Suffragette’ is a deliberately jumbled, deliberately uncomfortable boy-reaction to navigating the politics of feminism, and of attachment, while not laying down a straight party line. On the surface, Everything Everything might have a preachy pitch, but while they’re eager to dig up these thorny issues, they’re not going to lecture about them; rather, they’ll illustrate them in a variety of shifting voices and complex characterisations. Railing in character, Jon frets over mixed social and sexual signals, and an innate inability to process them.“When she casts off her clothes, I don’t know what is reality. / And my death throes, this indefinite pose, / her flesh codes inconceivable. / Oh, suffragette, suffragette, / I wanna be outlawed and AWOL. / No alphabet can be used yet; / no cassette is available. / Oh, I dunno how, I dunno how, / I’m gonna reset my whole radar.”

A querulous little guitar lick (like a frown crossing a forehead, or an interrupted gesture of doubt) keeps imposing itself on the tune. A great dumb metallic crunk of riffage repeatedly gatecrashes the chorus. The chorus itself is the whole band carolling “who’s gonna sit on your fence when I’m gone? / Who’s gonna sit on your fence when I’m not there?” (with “fence” sounding suspiciously like “face”). The whole song ends up as a huge stage wink being made about – and to – male awkwardness; but elsewhere Jon is busy spicing up the pot by spilling out quick, slippery lyrical gags about mediaeval humours, dog food and Electra complexes. The good news is you can sit down and unpack all of this while still humming the hooks. The bad news is that we’re going to have to wait a while before we hear any more.

For the moment, though, we have a startling B-side, ‘Luddites and Lambs’. A word-avalanche set to a sort of heavy-metal/prog Prefab Sprout tumult, it tears off in a fugue of multiple directions – carnality, car-crashes, evolution, pathology, even a cameo appearance by Girls Aloud. Lyrically, they’re grabbing a camera, pointing it at a situation, and violently zooming it in and out in order to capture absolutely all of the factors seeping in and bleeding out. Either that, or they’re determined to blow up scenarios and point excitedly at their atoms, while the guitars crash and bounce around them like splintering shale. Either way, they seem intent on bringing their own brand of New Complexity into pop music. It’s as thrilling as it is confusing.

Following up on her loving detailed tribute to ‘60s soul pop and girl groups back in February (on ‘I Decided’), Solange’s ‘Sandcastle Disco’ continues along similar lines. Classic Motown, Shirelles and Shangri-Las sounds are carefully re-honed with touches of contemporary R&B electronics, but with the hip hop firmly sidelined. Straddling R&B history, it draws on more decades than simply the ‘60s: producers Soulshock and Karlin originally made their mark with CeCe Peniston, Monica and Brandy back in the 1990s, while there’s also more than a few little touches from the Scandinavian Anglo-pop explosion of the last ten years; with co-writer Cee Lo Green bringing just a hint of Gnarls Barkley revivalism to the stew.

Most of it, however, is Solange herself in the present – directing a lively video which puts a contemporary CGI spin on all of those early green-screen seventies clips of tiny pop stars dancing on gigantic instruments; and, more importantly, delivering a song which doesn’t rely on its production dress-up to be on target. ‘Sandcastle Disco’ has upbeat insecurity. It has vulnerability delivered on top of a crisp, subtly muscular beat. “I’m a cool old Jane with the skip on my feet. / I play tough as nails with my heart on my sleeve,” sings Solange. “I’m nothing but a sand castle / Baby don’t blow me away, away.”

A brassier Freemasons Club mix puts some smack, sirens’n’stutter back into the atmosphere and sharpens the intent, but it doesn’t particularly reveal anything that wasn’t in there before – strong bones under the dropping of guardedness, a plea before the dice roll but one which won’t stop them being rolled in the first place. Admittedly it still sounds like a consolidation as Solange finds her developing voice (despite the lines which hit the money, a few of the other lyrics come across as fumbled factory off-cuts), but as stepping stones go, this is a lasting one.

Thinning his eyeliner, dropping his pitch and sinking waist-deep into a buzzing, drum-flailing electronica sound, William Francis (from upbeat Pacific seaboard horror-punks Aiden) has become William Control. ‘Beautiful Loser’ takes its title from Leonard Cohen and its spurt of morbid lyrics from any number of death-cult pop-rant traditions as William yells on about self-ending and terminal dances. “One last kiss before they cart me away / and just take one last look before my body decays. This is my last night on earth / My fucking hell. / All my life, all I’ve wanted to say / This is love, love, love, while the symphony plays. / Here in death, I would cut my breath just to stay. / I’ll never love again. / Take the vision away.”

Of course, it’s all accompanied by a compulsive stomping floor-filler of a tune, and it’s hard to immerse yourself in a genuine death spiral when you’re wanting to get up and monster-mash, a belligerent grin on your face, to a slasher beat like this one. William says that the William Control project allows him to express “dark lyrical content” which won’t work with Aiden. I think he just wants to keep his corpse paint on while escaping from the tinniness of pop-punk.

This single blazes with an arrogant energy, belying its end-of-the-line posturing. William’s not heading down; he’s stepping up while turning up the heat under the broiling dark energies and warped romanticism that energize and preserve goth culture and can make people like him figureheads. He knows exactly what he’s doing.

Everything Everything: ‘Suffragette Suffragette’
Salvia, TIC 008 (no catalogue number or barcode)
7″ vinyl single
24th November 2008

Get/stream it from:
(2022 update) Original single best obtained second-hand; downloadable/streamable from Soundcloud, YouTube, Tidal, Amazon Music; as part of ‘Man Alive’ album, also on Apple Music, Deezer, Spotify

Everything Everything online:
Homepage, Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, Instagram, online store, Bandcamp,, Apple Music, YouTube, Deezer, Tidal, Spotify, Amazon Music    

Solange: ‘Sandcastle Disco’
Geffen Records, 1792377 (602517923775)
CD single
24th November 2008

Get/stream it from:
(2022 update) CD single best obtained second-hand; downloadable/streamable from Apple Music, YouTube, Deezer, Tidal, Spotify, Amazon Music

Solange online:
Homepage, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Bandcamp,, Apple Music, YouTube, Deezer, Tidal, Spotify, Amazon Music 

William Control: ‘Beautiful Loser’
Victory Records (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download-only single
24th November 2008

Get/stream it from:
(2022 update) Original download no longer available; streamable on YouTube; as part of ‘Hate Culture’ album, also on Apple Music, Deezer, Tidal, Spotify, Amazon Music

William Control online:
Homepage, Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, Instagram, online store,, Apple Music, YouTube, Deezer, Tidal, Spotify, Amazon Music

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