What is the musical direction you take when your previous albums are all critically acclaimed classics? Most bands would not go in a direction where the lead single plays like a combination of ABBA and Rusted Root’s ‘Send Me on My Way.’ Then again, most bands wouldn’t create a fictional company that are intent on trying to maximise the band’s marketing potential after signing a 360-degree contract. This surreal backdrop to Arcade Fire’s fifth studio album ‘Everything Now’ has resulted in an insane, yet enjoyable, album roll out campaign, mixing the bands new singles with fake news articles and everything else in between.
But regardless of the information overload presented by the Everything Now Corporation, what matters the most is the new songs. The lead single Everything Now is pretty indicative of the direction the band have taken, they have fully embraced the dance vibes that they flirted with on Reflektor. Everything Now seems destined to be a set list staple, combining a magnificent pygmy flute (sampled from Francis Bebey’s ‘The Coffee Cola Song) with a sing along chorus which seems to be an attempt to recapture the magic of the self-described ‘Millennial Whoop’ from ‘Wake Up.’ It does not quite reach the emotional peaks of Wake Up, but it is a solid single.
Three other singles also debuted before the album release, Creature Comfort, Signs of Life and Electric Blue. Creature Comfort is a deceptively and deliciously dark piece of death disco. With lyrics alluding to suicide and the band’s own ability to dwell on death and make depressing music. The song is a gem and amongst the best the band have made in their last couple of albums. Signs of Life doesn’t quite live up to the previous singles, but is pretty groovy and a decent song, but nothing special. Electric Blue is excellent, showboating Regine Chassagne’s vocals to the highest note they can possibly reach. The song plays like the 80’s disco that forms the backbone of the album, but with the falsetto vocals of Regine pushing the song to another level. It is moody and one of the highlights of the album.
Infinite Content/Infinite_Content is an interesting idea, two songs which use the same repetitive lyrics about being ‘Infinitely content’ with infinite content. This is the most direct example of one of the overarching themes of Everything Now, tackling with living in the information age. The idea of accessibility and availability of everything are consistently questioned throughout the album, asking the questions about consumerism that the band asked in the promotional campaign. In an age in which technological advances mean that almost anything and anyone is accessible from anywhere the band hit on a cultural nerve about technological progress that is often ignored.
Ultimately the rest of the album can be split into two parts, before the Infinite Content/Infinite_Content duo and after. The two non-singles before that stopgap, ‘Peter Pan’ and ‘Chemistry’ are pretty good, Chemistry sounding like the most disco inspired 60’s rock song put to record and Peter Pan being an interesting take on morality. I predict neither of these songs will be future tour staples for the band, but much like ‘Joan of Arc’ on Reflektor, these are solid album tracks that work well. The same can be said of Good God Damn, a moody and downbeat song which seems to allude to the Mormon upbringing of Win and Will Butler and has the existential themes that are common in Arcade Fire’s music.
The closing straight of Everything Now is where it flourishes. ‘Put Your Money on Me’ sounds directly out the Depeche Mode playbook however has the signature Arcade Fire touches that make it their version of Synth-pop. It is yet another atmospheric and lyrically dark song, but with playful synth lines. It is excellent and the purest embrace of the synthesiser that Arcade Fire have produced.
However, by far the best song on the album, ‘We Don’t Deserve Love’ is the perfect penultimate song. A beautifully emotional song (That I am unafraid to admit made me cry the first time I heard it). I feel like any description I write cannot do this song justice. It is absolutely fantastic.
In the end, Everything Now will have its detractors. People will argue that it is too ‘Pop’, that Arcade Fire shouldn’t do Disco and go back to their Funeral, Neon Bible or The Suburbs sound. Like any good band, Arcade Fire continue to innovate their sound, they push the boundaries of what their fans expect and what they think they want. Everything Now is by no means a perfect album, it can get slightly repetitive at points and some songs are not ones that I can see myself playing outside of the context of the album. But it has something to say, it has a concept behind it, it is a band having fun and playing the music they want to play.