When Arcade Fire broke cover last month with single ‘Everything Now’, they offered their statement of intent for the concept of their fifth studio album of the same name. The joyous single combines infectious rhythms, dazzling ABBA-inspired piano hooks, festival-filling chants and even… a flute sample. It’s the band at their most brilliant — while still occupying that disco-floor that was laid down by previous effort ‘Reflektor’.
Dig deeper into the lyrics and grasp the album’s weak concept — however, it feels like our favourite Canadians aren’t so much in the party spirit. Instead they’re on the attack — having grown somewhat pissed off with technology, consumerism, vanity and modern life in general. Those pesky kids, huh?
2010’s ‘We Used To Wait’ — from the GRAMMY-winning ‘The Suburbs’ — explored a similar theme; longing for the lost romance of waiting for hand-written letters to arrive, while gazing down a nostalgia-filtered lens into childhood. It oozed warmth and provoked personal feelings of growing older.
‘Everything Now’, then, offers a more cynical standpoint. Taking aim at on-demand services, streaming platforms and the like, Arcade Fire suggest such thirst for content is corrupting our quest for ‘real’ happiness — with lyrics on the title track stating that “every smile is a fake” and “every film you’ve ever seen fills the spaces up in your dreams”.
The lacklustre lame funk of ’Signs Of Life’ — which leans more towards Robbie Williams’s ‘Rudebox’ than Blondie’s ‘Rapture’ — sees Win Butler plod through a dodgy rap, as he searches high and low for a meaningful and tangible experiences. Ironically, it’s the band’s most lifeless and tiresome single to date. An early live favourite from the LP ‘Creature Comfort’ features Butler at his most confrontational. He spits lyrics about self image, suicide and craving fame over aggressive, jagged synths and pounding drums. Up next is the dub-injected ‘Peter Pan’, which sounds like it’s been scraped up off the ‘Reflektor’ B-sides cutting room floor.
At the centre of the record are the duo of tracks ‘Infinite Content’ and, erm, ‘Infinite_Content’. Clocking in at around the one-minute-30 mark, each track is a different versions of the same song; the first a punk-injected Wayne’s World theme tune soundalike, the second a country-tinged ballad. “All your money is already spent on infinite content”, Butler tells us. It’s Arcade Fire at their most gimmick-y, wasting time on a relatively short LP with half thought-out, sub-par material.
Thankfully, we’re rewarded for our patience with the pure magic of heartbreaker ‘We Don’t Deserve Love’. If you look into the band’s back catalogue, you’ll find that a number of essential cuts carry the motif of cars and driving late at night (‘In The Backseat’, ‘Keep The Car Running’, ‘Suburban War’ and ‘Headlights Look Like Diamonds’, to name a few). This track continues down that highway, with Butler once again gathering his thoughts as he travels down the open road. “Keep both eyes on the road tonight, cause I’m driving home to you,” he croons, before airing concerns over a fractured relationship: “You don’t wanna talk / You don’t wanna touch / You don’t even wanna watch tv”. It truly is one of the band’s finest moments. Regine Chassange steps into the spotlight for the pop-sheen groove of 'Electric Blue', taking her distinct vocals to greater heights: another album high point.
Despite these few fleeting moments of greatness, ‘Everything Now' feels like the band's first missfire record of their career, with its lack of a focused concept, cohesiveness and heart. Arcade Fire live shows are known for bringing together thousands in celebratory unison, though 'Everything Now' alienates the listener with snarky commentary and pretentious preaching, which leave us cold and unsatisfied.
Words: Tom Skinner
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