ALBUM REVIEW: Everything Everything, Raw Data Feel
As technological progress marches on, so do new fears about the risks upgraded machines bring upon the general human populace. This can be seen in the popularization of programs like Dalle, where one can just type in “the crucifixion of SpongeBob done in an anime style”, among other AI/bot programs devoted to artistic creation. Trends such as these have sparked a discussion of the threat AI now poses to artists, as one can easily commission a well-trained program to do the work of artists. Raw Data Feel by the British Band Everything Everything possibly assuages these fears, in the most unfortunate way possible.
For the writing of this album, Everything Everything commissioned the help of an AI they designed named Kevin. Kevin had been fed a healthy diet of Confucian teachings, Beowulf, the terms of service for LinkedIn, and 4Chan posts. This random amalgamation of sources creates a pure mess of boring or meaningless lyrics for songs from a band whose lyricism typically carries their music, even when visualizations and audio mar them.
The band starts out with a choice I have historically found odd within albums. The four singles they released prior to the album are also the first four songs within, albeit with a slightly different order. This is an automatic problem, in my opinion, as these singles are arguably the strongest songs from the album, and putting them first further juxtaposes the bad songs from the good (well, fine) songs. By releasing them before the album, the band is also creating unrealistic hopes for the holistic quality of the album.
The song titles (and by extension, the lyrics) are, as is common with Everything Everything, abstract and arbitrary. You have the moderately simple titles of “Pizza Boy” and “Bad Friday” (which are also the only close to good songs on the album), mixed with the more creative names like “Metroland is Burning” and “Born Under a Meteor”. Kevin even contributed one title, apparently having penned “Software Greatman” the lackluster conclusion song to the album. Unfortunately, as I said before, the writing is so low quality that it wards off any excitement one may obtain from such thought-provoking titles. Not even fun song titles can save this album from itself.
In terms of the music itself, this album’s discography is repetitive. At its core, the album is the same song repeated 14 times, each with small variations but with a generally similar sound throughout. This specific sound is alternative and electronic, but in more of a “boring Netflix soundtrack for a low budget sci-fi film” style than in a “pushing the boundaries of what we think music can be” way. The vocals are the same as they always are, inconsistent in tone and with such an odd accent, as if the lead vocalist became possessed by the ghost of an Old Hollywood starlet.
All of these flaws may not be entirely the robot’s fault, though. The band itself admitted that the AI’s generated work contributed about 5% to the final result, so could this mediocrity come from pure human error? What is the point of a gimmick like “AI generated music” if such a gimmick goes underutilized? How does it explain away phenomenons that could be blamed on the quality of an AI, such as endlessly repeated lyrics with little meaning, rapidly shifting focuses, and allusions to the sources of the AI’s knowledge? Whether this is truly AI’s fault or the fault of the band itself is mostly irrelevant.
Maybe the technological future of music, at least the future of Everything Everything’s music, really is in danger, at least if the final results lack human meaning as if made by an AI, even if the music mostly isn’t.