One of 2013’s musical moments was when Arcade Fire enlisted the ever elusive David Bowie for their lead single Reflektor, and that wasn’t even their boldest move in the song. Produced by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, Reflektor was a dark, brooding and dance-y number clocking over 7 minutes and one would have been hard pressed to find such a sonic shift between their albums. It was a shock to many long-time fans, bringing a sense of alienation to some. Therefore, when 2017 arrived and with it the prospect of a new Arcade Fire album, they clamoured for a return to the old guitar-laden indie sound.
Enter, Everything Now, the album and its lead single. It would be a cliché to compare this to ABBA, yet the comparison is apt. It also sounds a lot like the Suburbs-meets-Funeral Arcade Fire, with Regine Chassagne’s piano and some familiar passionate backing vocals making it not too dissimilar to their Neighbourhood series of songs. This proves to be a bit of a red herring. The next song, Signs of Life proves to be a 90 degree shift in the backward direction and continues where they left off Reflektor. Kool and the Gang funk stylings with a fair bit of sprinkling of hand claps, it would have fit in very nicely in a buddy-cop movie soundtrack. The lyrics are where their problems begin.
The intentions may be sincere, but Win and Regine can’t help but sound like the age has caught up with them and don’t understand what the ‘cool kids’ would get out of a night full of partying and meaningless sex. Creature Comfort, a synth-pop number à la New Order and The Cure, impersonalizes suicide, which may not be a bad thing considering the overall nihilistic theme of the song. They also manage to name-check their own debut album and one can’t help but shrug with indifference. Chemistry manages to be their worst-ever song by some distance and even the nostalgic Jamaican-Haitian sounds can’t drag it out of the dirt.
The album, a critique on the mass consumerism and status symbolism, tries to accentuate these very themes through the two semi-interludes, each named Infinite Content, but it falls flat. Electric Blue turns out to be the stand out track from the album, the arpeggio-chimed synth, coupled with Regine’s airy vocals, is stunning, and makes for a euphoric listen with the ‘Na-na-nas’. Good God Damn, with a funky bass line and thumping bongos, is not too dissimilar to We Exist off Reflektor and could make a good companion song to it. The penultimate song of the album, We Don’t Deserve Love, finally brings some emotion to the album, with the hand-holding chorus tying together other life affirming penultimate songs from their other album.
Contrary to the popular opinion amongst their fans, the problem does not lie sonically. Indeed, this direction seems to be the logical next step after Reflektor. The problem lies in the lack of attachment to the lyrics. It seems as if they are just going through the motions, consumed by the same mass consumerism that they hoped to critique about.