Arcade Fire - Everything Now
Arcade Fire are the absolute definition of unconventional and with their fifth album ‘Everything Now’ they throw the rules out the window once again as they take a disco tinged left turn into the unexpected as they provide you with everything…. now!
If you’ve read my recent review of Arcade Fire’s fantastic live show at Castlefield Bowl then you’ll know just how much I love this band, they’ve soundtracked my life from my early teens to young adulthood, each album see’s the band adapt and change, experimenting with many different styles of music, ‘Everything Now’ see’s the band once again take a left turn into the unexpected as they go more out right pop than ever before.
The band and especially Win have taken some of the albums criticism quite hard the past few weeks and in their defence they most certainly have a point, most reviews nowadays take a first or second listen and quickly write up a rushed review, they take away the music and critique the band’s choices such as Arcade Fire’s promotional campaign or they’ll fixate on the fact Daft Punk’s Thomas is a producer on the record, so I’ve taken a different approach, I’ve listened to the record many times (probably pushing 20) over the course of the week and I think I can safely give my verdict.
The opening track ‘Everything Now’ has come under much scrutiny for it’s many inspirations and influences but it’s by far one of the best tracks they’ve released in years. yes, it may sound similar to Abba, but when did Abba ever make a sprawling six minute epic that combines a disco beat with pan pipes and a gap where a festival crowd join in singing their hearts out midway through?
The album continues it’s fantastic start with it’s other singles ‘Signs Of Life’ an infectious extra terrestrial themed riot of a song, Regines vocals merge perfectly with Wins when she joins in with the occasional vocal snippet, it’s also incredibly catchy and will probably stick inside your mind long after the albums finished, also anyone who says Win raps on this song, needs to take a look at their music credentials and listen to some hip-hop.
‘Creature Comforts’ is brilliantly twisted, it’s beat is frantic and jumpy mixed in with a brilliant key-tar led melody but what really sticks out is Arcade Fire’s darkest lyrics yet, it’s an ode to self-harm and suicide, theres very few metaphors as Win instead paints a vivid and bleak picture in your mind, the song itself is fantastic and it’s juxtaposition of making you sing along to the tragic words is a stroke of genius.
The album definitely takes a dip in quality when it gets to ‘Peter Pan’ however, it’s a short track that doesn’t really go anywhere and the instrumental portions end up grating on you, in an album with not too many songs it really sticks out as a sore point, ‘Chemistry’ is a mixed bag for sure, when first performed live it was euphoric but it’s studio version fails to reach the same heights, it’s a solid track that feels the most similar to their Reflektor tracks with it’s carnival styled horns, it certainly picks up towards the end however when it turns up a notch with the electric guitar riffs that ACDC would be proud off.
The ‘Infinite Content’ pairing is an interesting choice, it’s basically the same song played twice but in two very contrasting styles, both versions clock in at just over a minute and a half each so together they make one track, the first version is a proper in your face heavy rock song, it’s roaring and wild with some fantastic shredding, what it lacks in lyrical content it makes up for in sheer ferociousness. Suddenly the track completely flips and the acoustic guitars come in, the second half plods along at a much slower pace, it’s a beautiful folk number which could easily fit on ‘The Suburbs’, on paper the idea for the two tracks sound insane but Arcade Fire’s unique idea works wondrously, it makes me wonder if will see more bands follow suit.
‘Electric Blue’ is the Regine led song, theres usually at least one on each album but this is by far the albums highlight and arguably as good as if not better than ‘Sprawl’, it see’s Regine somehow reach vocal highs I didn’t even think were possible, at points you struggle to understand what she’s even singing when she reaches her highest notes during the chorus, that’s not even meant as a critique as the resulting sounds are beautiful, I’ve seen reviewers describe it as disco but for me I struggle to pin down just what it sounds like, its both modern and old school at the same time, both wanting to make you want to dance and cry at once. It’s truly like nothing the band have attempted before, even the synthesisers sound so foreign but magnificent.
I’m still completely undecided on ‘Good God Damn’ It’s a blue tinged old school number that could be easily placed on a Black Key’s record, it see’s Win sing with earnest and a slight pain, the guitars in the background pick up pace throughout before Win puts on his falsetto for the chorus, for me it’s the most divisive track on the album and I think only time will tell how it’s received, I do however love the self referential lyrics and throwbacks to earlier tracks such as the Creature Comforts referencing ‘put your labourite record on baby, fill the bath tub up, you can say goodbye to your so called friends’, a clever little nod that show’s how interlinked and cohesive the album is.
One of the tracks I find myself coming back to the most is the Stranger Things styled ‘Put Your Money On Me’, it’s by far one of the best tracks Arcade Fire have made, It may not grab you at first listen but it’s the one i’ve found sticks inside your brain the most after you’ve listened through, they’ve taken the ethereal and spooky 80’s synth sounds that have made the Stranger Things soundtrack so popular and then layered some brilliant lyrics and a catchy chorus to it, the result is definitely a winner, it builds to a brilliant climax that see’s Regine really shine alongside Win with some enormous harmonies.
The album’s final full track is ‘We Don’t Deserve Love’, it’s gone down very well with fans and it’s not hard to see why, I haven’t heard Win sing like this before, he sounds almost strained as he sings almost a cappella for the first 2 and a half minutes before the band actually kick in, but when they do it’s almost tranquil like a lullaby, the keys and strings are so light you feel as if your being floated away.
The album ends however with another version of centrepiece track ‘Everything Now’, this is because the record is designed to mix into the beginning of the album like a cycle, the finale track however is interlaced with a beautiful orchestral version of the main melody, which I even found myself welling up at, you can never really appreciate the grand nature of music until it’s laid out in front of you with strings, the end result is an uplifting and tearful finish to what can only beconsidered yet another great addition to their discography.
It’s most definitely not perfect or there best release but ‘Everything Now’ is a very solid entry into the Arcade Fire catalogue, It’s certainly worth the four year wait and I can’t wait to see how people’s opinions will change and fluctuate about each track as the year goes by. It will also be interesting to see what songs will get picked out for their UK tour early next year, see you then!