Arcade Fire - Everything Now Album Review
Arcade Fire has fallen victim to the curse that seems to affect every artist whose debut release is lauded as a classic: “where can we go from here?” Arcade Fire has eschewed trying to recreate Funeral, instead focusing on a new theme or atmosphere with each release. This approach has led to one of the most successful runs by an indie artist in the new millennium, maintaining admiration from fans, music critics, and even mainstream recognition, winning the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2011 for The Suburbs.
But what has really kept Arcade Fire’s anthemic indie sound from growing stale and garnering continued success has been the unbridled ambition they’ve brought to every record. Whether tackling the foundations of the American dream on The Suburbs or expertly executing a hard shift left sonically with Reflektor, Arcade Fire’s skilled songwriting and musicianship has always been filtered through a desire to create something musically complex or dynamic.
With Everything Now, there’s still ambition present on the record, but merely conceptually. Almost as if in justification of leaving Merge Records and moving to the major label Columbia Records, Everything Now aims to critique the effects of late-state capitalism on society and, to a smaller extent, art in general. Promotion for the record has inundated music publications and social media with overbearing satire of mainstream marketing, trying so hard to parody something that it becomes worse than the subject of its satirization.
Arcade Fire fails to match the music to the weight of the lyrical themes, with many of the tracks on Everything Now sounding very conventional and basic for a band this far into their career. While the group purposefully aims for a more pop-oriented sound to satirize mainstream music, they instead let it impact their songwriting rather than their production choices or instrumental choices. Songs such as “Chemistry,” “Infinite Content,” and “Infinite_Content” are so poorly executed it’s bizarre to think how they made it off the cutting room floor. They fail to do anything interesting or worthwhile, let alone go anywhere beyond where they begin.
The better moments on the album feel too subpar to land on any other Arcade Fire album as well. The singles for the record, while diverse, sound almost like b-sides of the artists they’re influenced by. “Everything Now” and “Electric Blue” wear their ABBA inspiration on their sleeve, and while Arcade Fire certainly has the potential to combine their grandiose songwriting with that sonic palette, in the end they write safe pop songs with little flair. “Creature Comfort” is slightly more engaging, though the lyrics are so heavy handed they crush any nuanced emotional impact the song could have had.
There’s nothing wrong with a stalwart indie artist like Arcade Fire wanting to stretch into the realm of pop, especially for a group that has inarguably three classic albums under their belt. But what makes Everything Now such a frustrating foray into the pop realm for Arcade Fire is that their listeners and their fans know they can write better songs than this. Case in point being the second to last track “We Don’t Deserve Love.”
“We Don’t Deserve Love” sounds like the perfect evolution of Arcade Fire’s sound into a more electronic-infused style, with small flourishes and details layered over the longing synths that harken back to the best moments on Funeral. Will Butler and Régine Chassagne’s vocals sound so tortured and vulnerable here that the listener has to wonder, “Why the heck isn’t the whole album as good as this?” If only we knew the answer.
Everything Now probably won’t be looked back on so harshly 15 or even 20 years down the line, and will hopefully help bring them some new listeners who will dig into their wonderful back catalog. But in 2017, for a band as trained and influential as Arcade Fire to release such an uneven album with unambitious songwriting, there’s little room to give others even the smallest measure of recommendation to listen to the record.
Chandler Copenheaver is a senior majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Civic and Community Engagement. To contact him, email him at email@example.com.