Thoughts: Arcade Fire presents Everything Now, but something is missing
Like many people, Arcade Fire means something to me. Though I came to the band fairly late, having bought The Suburbs in 2010 to accompany a road trip with friends, I was instantly hooked. Unfortunately their new LP Everything Now has little of what attracted me to the band, and may be the most disappointing album I've heard this year.
First, let's get this out of the way: I liked Reflektor. Their 2013 album was divisive when it was released, as it took the band in a more electronic, dance-influenced direction with the help of LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy. I thought the new sound fit the band's more experimental tendencies and meshed well with their already dance-y rhythm section. Yes, even Funeral is secretly a dance record-- remember the double-time coda in "Crown of Love?"
Everything Now is also a dance record, but that's about all that remains of the band as it was. Where Reflektor still had that charming Arcade Fire sincerity (most notably on acceptance anthem "We Exist"), nothing on Everything Now feels honest or empathetic, at times even feeling harsh and cold. "Creature Comfort" deals with the subject of suicide, but contains just one short line from Win Butler about how the victim "was a friend." Not exactly the message of hope we need right now, especially given the context of this year in music.
This song and lyric reminded me of something the band said doing press for The Suburbs, which is that the album was not meant to be in support of or an attack on the suburbs as a concept, but instead just stories from the suburbs. So it could be read that while Everything Now deals with the subjects of materialism and suicide, it is simply about those things and not a critique of them. You can certainly see there is a chasm of distance between these two things, however. 2017 is not the year a band with as much influence as Arcade Fire should be noncommittal about human lives.
Of course, I've just scratched the surface of my disappointment so far. Beyond my disagreement with the theme of the record, I had issues with some of the sonic choices as well. The album's nadir is the grating "Peter Pan," which sounds like someone heard disc 1 of Reflektor through someone's wall and started anxiously pounding out a rhythm. It's not pleasing to hear, nor are the lyrics worthwhile. It's followed by the only slightly more bearable "Chemistry" and "Infinite Content," both featuring incredibly questionable production and forgettable themes. I wondered at one point whether this was all a ruse and that the Real Arcade Fire LP 5 was due out later this year. As far as I know, this is all we're getting.
The album does offer a few songs that truly belong in the band's cannon: Rousing opener "Everything Now," the driving "Put Your Money on Me," and personal highlight "Electric Blue." The latter is the sole Regine vocal and feels like the comedown companion to Suburbs' Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).
Everything Now is not a total mess, but it is incredibly frustrating. What was once a band that could do no wrong now feels fallible. Then again, with the expectation of endless media, one has to expect diminishing returns.