A few weeks back, I had ordered a physical copy of Allegories’ Surreal Auteur, one of my Top 40 of 2008 and an album I reviewed here, but by mistake, I was sent a copy of The Rest’s sophomore album Everyone All At Once (The Rest is Allegories’ Adam Bentley and Jordan Mitchell’s other band with five additional members, including Anna Jarvis, Blake Bowman, Dwayne Brydon, Matty Buzanko and Steve Jones) and a limited, hand-crafted edition of their single Apples & Allergies. There couldn’t have been a more fortuitous error. Everyone All At Once is like the natural world seen through ambling, hyper-speeding youth, tripping over tongues and blinded by the sun. Since Allegories largely used non-verbal vocals, The Rest allows for a different lyrical facet as Bentley’s vocals pitch between a graceful dreaminess to a crazed fragility. There’s an organic wholeness to the record that evokes that inspirational ensemble feeling that Canadian bands from The Arcade Fire to Broken Social Scene seem so adept at, and the entire record feels like a victory as songs build and build to ecstatic heights. There’s always a feeling of anticipation and tension in these songs, generating a heart-quickening buzz.
Incredible, stately viola and violin begin the album as the first track, Coughing Blood/Fresh Mountain Air, slowly drifts into your head. Bentley’s vocals are desperately beautiful as more instruments join in and the calm waves of perfectly rounded melodies progress into a more frenzied state. The lyrics are original and evocative:
A vampire Transylvanian
I’ve heard them all
I’m coughing blood
And I wait
The only thing that’s real
With a fever
My head is freezing
By the fire
Reduced in air
You really feel as though Bentley is gasping for air as he yelps “I can hardly breathe.” The following track, Modern Time Travel (necessities), also begins in an understated, sparse way before it, too, sweeps you up in a triumphant torrent; Bentley sings “High above the sunny sky/I realize I’m going” as his voice wavers with the sheer momentum of being launched into the heavens. While no less propulsive, Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing is a delicate, almost folky, song with driving, spiralling segments of triplets, which aurally imitate the lyrics about feeling literally at sea because of another’s identity confusion. The music appears to take a sobering turn with Phonetically, Phonetically, which remains slower and allows Bentley to extend his vocals in wide swathes of soaring colour, much like what was featured in Allegories; oddly enough, the song takes a playful, banjo-inflected corner a couple of minutes in, and then one of my favourite lines: “If I was a figure of speech then we’d all be erased.” Communication problems are eloquently sung through the metaphorical screen of language, maintaing some of the tension felt through the first few songs. Released single, Apples & Allergies, continues with the uplifting feel and a tantilizing sense of wonderment through lyrics like:
Crossing my arms to cover my eyes
Moving pictures of apples
There I wake to find myself only five
Debating whether toads are frogs in disguise
And if pigs fly
Crossing my eyes to focus
There’s a brilliant delight in the possibility of the periphery and a different way of looking at the world.
There is a slightly quieter subtlety to Drinking Again, which, unlike the previous songs, stays in a pocket of mournful stillness. It is soft enough to allow for hearing every vibration of Bentley’s vocal cords, including honest breaths and swallows. The music picks up again with the bouncy, shambolic Blossom Babies Part Two; like many of the previous tracks, it has a desperate quality to it, a fierce questioning and burning need to believe in a certain version of life’s story. Bentley hits some gorgeously haunting notes before he launches into “Tell me, tell me, tell me/You had sex on the patio/And that’s where you fall in love/You fall in love/We fall in love.” The hum of viola opens Walk On Water (auspicious beginnings) before the tapping of snare and frantic guitar begins to accelerate the song into a freewheeling summer day; it feels like an endless race into a baptismal lake. As with most of the earlier tracks, The Lady Vanishes takes some time to build to its pumping escape. Humans and language meld and intertwine again:
I know that they treat you right
But the ellipses on your face
Have been filled in with observations of mine
I’ll chisel your bones
To take you home
Just to stare at your eyes
I’ll fashion an umbrella from your placenta
And sail on to the sky
People become vessels for words as physical bodies become tools, and the sky continues to hold dreams and promise. The album concludes with the rather verbosely titled, Everything All At Once A) The last great cocoa owl job B) In my attic, souvenirs. It is broken between its two lettered components, the former being a rather jaunty melody, and the latter exploding into a whimsical ballad before coming down to near silence for “But here we’re hiding in the cold cellar/Kissing in complete silence/A coma with cartoon colours/Glue my eyes shut/Never to be found again.” The record fades away to the same strings that opened it.
The music of Everyone All At Once feels like a spiritual re-awakening, sometimes liberating, sometimes overwhelming. There’s a grasping at hope and a breathless commitment to exploring language; it becomes an endless struggle to see yet not to see too much. Just as all band members join in for the musical equivalent of a perfect, bittersweet memory, all the thoughts, emotions, and observations of humanity flood in and culminate in one flailing catharsis. The record has so much life (some of it has to be relegated to parentheses).