Written by Kai Feltham
Arcade Fire are no strangers to the process of reinvention. Emerging as wide-eyed budding folk talents, before delving into more electronically driven indie rock saw them surge into the public eye with albums The Suburbs and Neon Bible. Rather than continue along this heavily trodden path, the Canadian crew decided to re-emerge under the false pretence of a new, make-up and fancy dress clad band, namely the Reflektors, as they embarked upon their adventurous, genre-hopping Reflektor record. This time round though, Win Butler and his merry band have gone one step beyond, reinventing the entire world that revolves around the music of Arcade Fire. From the satirical notes running through their lyrical content, to the Everything Now marketing company social media account; feeding fans with fake news and societal mockery has become a central pillar of Arcade Fire’s reincarnation. The album itself is an enjoyable listen, with its own highs and lows evident. Nonetheless it is impossible not to admire the creative nous that Arcade Fire display with Everything Now, every feature of its formulation meticulously planned and executed.
As the opening piano refrains of the lead single Everything Now burst out, one would be forgiven for thinking that they had tuned into a record transported directly out of the 1980s. The humming bassline and acoustic guitar chords combine with dreamy strings to present what is an exceptionally catchy musical accompaniment. As the chorus enters and the choral vocals chant “Everything Now”, it is almost impossible to resist the nagging subconscious urge to sing along. In fact, this is a common theme which runs throughout the other prominent singles of Signs of Life and Creature Comfort, both with their own simple and almost irritatingly catchy choruses. Signs of Life buzzes along to a continuous beat, driven along by a brass section playing the same deep notes on a constant loop. The effect presents a track that would not be out of place in the background of some mysterious noir film, its influences once again rooted firmly in the musical roots of a bygone era.
Creature Comfort spurts acutely aggressive synth hooks, sliced with regimented percussion and matched with Win Butler’s equally direct vocal tone. Its lyrical content is directly aligned with the overarching satirical theme that the record subscribes to, raising the continual individual desire for fame and fortune demanding “God, make me famous / If you can’t just make it painless.” The track follows an almost morbid tone, discussing the ongoing obsessions with body image and its corresponding quest for social acceptance, highlighting that “some boys hate themselves”, whilst “some girls hate their bodies / stand in the mirror and wait for the feedback.” Creature Comfort is one of the tracks on Everything Now that is immediately arresting and enjoyable, with equally intriguing lyrical content to boot.
As exceptional as the opening four tracks of the record are though, the central portion is equally puzzling and unusual. Peter Pan and Chemistry both promise so much from their opening bars, yet seldom appear to break into a memorable tune. The electro-pop loops on Peter Pan are fun and far from routine and basic, but its presence on the record seems wildly out of place. Similarly, Chemistry is an almost jarringly unusual track, its combination of brass and hi-hat percussion giving the impression of a street carnival marching band. Both tracks have received a wide berth of mixed reviews from the assorted musical press, which is understandable and unsurprising. Peter Pan and Chemistry are far from poor, and are in fact still well composed intriguing tracks – but the question is though, have Arcade Fire gone almost too far with their reinvention? The rest of the record presents the band in an appropriate and exciting guise to match the record’s subject matter, but these two tracks may be a step too far.
Beyond the satirically focussed Infinite Content, one of the true and often unheralded highlights of Arcade Fire’s work is emphasised; the vocal prowess of Régine Chassagne, with her taking centre stage on Electric Blue. Her vocal tone is high pitched and ethereal, matching the floating synth textures and various electronic notes and licks that amalgamate in the musical background. The combinations created in Electric Blue are almost dreamlike, with the listener left floating away on an audible cloud.
A further highlight on the record, and arguably one of its very best tracks is found in Put Your Money On Me, a nod-inducing bassline pulsates in the background as the musical layers gradually expand. The track is a perfect example of simplicity generating brilliance, with very few different notes or chords utilised, all of its elements growing together as they mould together at the crescendo of a chorus. Butler’s vocals are at their strongest on the album here, and continue in the same vein in album closer We Don’t Deserve Love, a fragile ode to how the world could be. It is an entirely apt closer to Everything Now, with the newly discovered electropop elements of Arcade Fire’s work meeting their acoustic guitar led origins.
Everything Now is ultimately a triumph for Arcade Fire, presenting an enjoyable and well executed record along with their unique marketing ploys and determination towards an overall theme. The messages of social reliance on technology, the obsession with one’s own personal image and the increasing grip that technological corporations hold over the lives of individuals run throughout the lyrical content of the record. In fact, a number of their marketing ploys have been unexpectedly successful, with a number of Twitter followers this week falling foul to a ‘news story’ that the band were selling fidget spinners for around £100. If anything, Arcade Fire have proven two things with Everything Now: that this is still a band that we should all take extremely seriously, no matter how strange or unusual their output may be, and that our continual consumption of technological media is laughable, and it is work like this, holding a mirror up towards our increasingly socially unsociable lifestyles that is crucial in highlighting this.
With all of this in mind, although there are a couple of weak tracks at its epicentre, Everything Now is on the whole another very strong release from the Canadian band, seeing them once again successfully reinventing themselves and the character of their musical material.
Arcade Fire are on tour in the UK in April 2018, playing a number of very special shows in the round, on their ‘Infinite Content’ tour. Catch them at the following dates and venues:
8th April – Manchester Arena
11th, 12th, 13th April – Wembley Arena
15th April – Genting Arena, Birmingham
16th April – SSE Hydro, Glasgow
Check out the video for Creature Comfort here: