This album continues and expands on the dance-rock vibes Arcade Fire have been developing with pretty abhorrent results. The ideas are ill-conceived and under developed and the music falls flat.
|Artist: Arcade Fire
Album Title: Everything Now
When artists make albums all of the cool supplementary ideas they have on top of the actual music itself can serve to bolster the image and feel of whatever statement they’re trying to make. Obviously nobody told Arcade Fire that this only works if the music itself is good in the first place, and the ideas thought through properly. Fail to do this and all you’re left with is a well-conceived marketing campaign, so I guess you can count Everything Now as a win for any publicists and media agencies involved. It’s a real shame you can’t do the same for the band itself.
So both prior to the release of this album and after there were Arcade Fire T-shirts for sale inspired by the Kylie and Kendall Jenner fashion debacle, where they superimposed pictures of themselves on classic albums. There were Arcade Fire fidget spinners and cereals for sale. They wrote an album review for themselves ‘critiquing’ modern music journalism (*barf*). When you look at the track list one of the song titles appears three times and another one twice, spelled slightly differently each time (“Everything Now” and “Infinite Content”). If you were hoping some of Win Butler’s lyrics would explain the point of all of this then you’re in for Phantom Menace levels of disappointment.
One of the worst things about Everything Now is that it’s made me realise that Win has never been a good lyricist. That’s what really hurts. It’s just been a slew of half-baked ideas and GCSE Creative Writing Class poetry. When he was banging on about European villages and neighbourhood kids did it actually mean anything? What about electric religious texts and mundane things happening in the suburbs? Nada. What the band could always do was capture a feeling, a sense of place, a yearning for something greater beyond. Have we been giving the band a free pass all of these years because of how cathartic their sound is? It’s starting to seem that way because their last two albums have been about as interesting as watching circuit boards melt.
“Creature Comfort” is a pretty good example of the ideological and sonic deficiencies of this album, with Win yammering about vain girls and boys who attempt suicide whilst listening to Arcade Fire songs. Like many other bands they are now deploying some 80s electronica splodge so insufferable I couldn’t actually get through this album a second time for the purposes of this review. The singing is pretty consistently monotone and unengaging both from Butler and Régine Chassagne, the latter of whom has produced vocal takes so bad I’m astonished they made the final cut. She’s capable of so much more. The tracks that aren’t embarrassing and clunky are just mundane, and the whole piece falls flat as a consequence.
James Murphy has kinda ruined this band hasn’t he? Ever since he took over the production reins their sound has become stuttered and hollow. Ultimately Arcade Fire is not LCD Soundsystem and the dance-rock direction really doesn’t play to their strengths. Don’t get me wrong, I always admire artists who evolve, develop, try new things and push themselves with each passing album. Look at what The Horrors achieved after they abandoned garage rock and goth punk! Sometimes artists just make miscalculations. The trouble is Arcade Fire already made that mistake on Reflektor so really there’s no excuse for how bad Everything Now is. If anything they’ve gotten worse.
On the bright side the title track(s) are pretty good, especially the ABBA-inspired lead single. I like how the bookends of the album continue and expand on the electric lick that introduces the album. “Put Your Money On Me” develops quite nicely and has a decent hook. Overall however it’s not good listening for fans or new audiences alike, and I pray Arcade Fire radicalise their sound on their next outing. Stop the cad social commentary, throw the keyboards in the bin and start again from the Parisian backstreets or suburban Middle America. This is actually a band that I think needs to stay firmly in their comfort zone. As Professor Umbridge puts it in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, “…progress for progress’s sake must be discouraged”.