A Review of Arcade Fire's "Everything Now"
A Review of Arcade Fire's Everything Now
by June Eccles-Locke
Arcade Fire’s newest full-length record, Everything Now raises questions about the eerily steady growth of this removed, cellophane quality about the world. This is nothing new—the band has provided commentary on a range of big picture ideas throughout their musical history, with The Suburbs being the first prime example of a record encapsulating the shallow, callous nature of society in their discography. With their most recent release, we see that idea revisited and expanded upon.
The album kicks off with the title track, a dance rock song that sort of pays tribute to ABBA. The introductory piano melody is very evocative, the lyrics on the track are intelligent and very relevant to present life. However, something about the band’s sound here is a little stale. The high production value is possibly deliberate, maybe to breathe more legitimacy into the overall concept. It seems like a good choice for an album that is supposed to feel emotionally distant, but it unfortunately grows boring after the first half of the album. “Signs of Life” is tediously repetitive and practically superfluous in the tracklist. This idea could have worked better in a span of two minutes versus four. Again, I think the repetition and staleness is deliberate here. You can easily picture someone cruising the internet or scrolling through their cellphone to no avail, to make no authentic connection with anything, and it’s genius. Personally, I just wish Arcade Fire had written a different song to capture it.
“Creature Comfort” is both a highlight and a bust for me. The robust synth lines are energizing, the beat is infectious, and the production is just right. Lyrically, it isn’t one of my favorite spots on the album. Some lines seem a bit self-congratulatory: “Assisted suicide / She dreams about dying all the time / She told me she came so close / Filled up the bathtub and put on our first record.” There is most likely a reason they chose to include these lines, but they just seem a bit out of place. “Peter Pan” and “Chemistry” both seem a bit clustered and confused. Neither are standouts lyrically, and the music just seems unsure of itself. I think this pair is another experiment that just didn’t come full-circle. However, they are two of the most stylistically unique songs.
With “Infinite Content” and “Infinite_Content,” we pierce the cellophane bubble and are thrust to the back half of the album, which seems to be a moment of disillusionment. The former being upbeat and tenacious, forcing the listener to be aware of the vast ocean that is the world of technology, and the limitless quality of it. The latter is an exhausted version of the former, in which the narrator audibly becomes worn down by the “infinite” ways to absorb things via the internet/social media/television, quite explicitly. “Electric Blue” is an anecdote about long nights spent searching for purpose online, eyes glued to the computer and painted blue by its harsh light. Perusing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, perhaps dating websites, and finding out you’re never fulfilled. It’s quite grim and hopeless, and one of the most brutally honest moments in the album. The musical style is cloudy and neon, and Régine’s vocals are reminiscent of 80’s pop. It’s an interesting atmosphere this track has, and it’s perhaps the best of the whole record.
“Good God Damn” is next, and it’s equally as sorrowful. The narrator becomes so hopelessly disillusioned that they are contemplating suicide, and hoping with the last bit of hope that is left that there is a good god or higher being beyond all this meaningless searching for purpose. “Put Your Money On Me” takes the dark imagery even further: “The Silicon Valleys melted back into silicon / We’ll find a way to survive / Singing put your money on me.” Here, we have an array of possible meanings. Maybe the narrator is believing the search for purpose never ends, and we all will die with our online presence outlasting us. Or maybe, on a very different note, the narrator believes there is a way out. There is a lot going on here lyrically. It’s complex and enchanting. It’s an Arcade Fire classic. “We Don’t Deserve Love” follows, with a tone similar to the track before. This one holds my interest a little less, because it’s somewhat dry and repetitive, but is still much more honest than the dance rock front half of the album.
“Everything_Now (continued)” is actually quite beautiful. The piano motif from the title track is referenced here, strong as ever: “We can just pretend / We’ll make it home again / From everything now.” Now that we’ve spent so much time soul-searching in the wrong places, convincing ourselves that we need everything, convincing ourselves that we can find everything that will ever make us feel validated, we long to return home. We long to return to our real identities, free of needing acceptance. This idea is huge, but surely Arcade Fire’s conceptual and musical growth has had a varied appearance in their work.
What twists and turns did the band take along the way? Funeral, an album dowsed in wispy string arrangements and raw lyricism, revolutionized the indie music scene in 2004. Although this album is not my favorite Arcade Fire album—perhaps my least favorite if I had to rank the first four—it definitely stands out as an important piece of music history. It is evident that genres like art rock, indie rock, baroque pop, and folk rock were given much more breathing room thanks to albums like this one.
In 2007, Neon Bible was released. This album is much grander conceptually and musically. It comes packed with the same swelling orchestral electricity, but tips the listener over the edge by accompanying that sound with rawer lyricism and vocal delivery. The recurring themes are darker, dissected and explored at a less comfortable depth, and leave you feeling eerily enchanted. Overall, the band’s greatest accomplishment to date, but that is just my humble opinion.
Their third release, The Suburbs, dropped in 2010. The band’s sound is perhaps a bit more consistent here. It’s a more uniform, polished, and direct take on a concept album. This more refined approach didn’t leave us listeners unfulfilled; in fact, it only impressed us more. Although it evokes the most personal and intimate experience lyrically, its clean-cut execution of sound and concept are so accomplished, it’s practically a perfect album. Win Butler (lead vocalist/multi-instrumentalist) rhapsodizes about the false promises of suburban life, how it’s portrayed as picture perfect and ideal, but ultimately shallow.
In 2013, Reflektor was released. This time around, we hear completely new sounds make appearances. Some songs on this album are reminiscent of Talking Heads, David Bowie (who makes a guest appearance on the title track), and Depeche Mode. Personally, I think this album comes across as an experiment. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does leave the album a little less cohesive than others. On a positive note, some of the band’s most unique compositions were a result of this experimentation, and tracks like “Reflektor," “We Exist,” and “Porno” are far more than worthy of being mentioned. Thematically, this album shimmers with fresh ideas and it never repeats itself. That, to me, makes for a very interesting listen.
Everything Now may not be as uniform and complete as The Suburbs, or as fresh and unpredictable as Reflektor, but it certainly brings ideas to the table that stick with you. While I didn’t care for the way the first half of the album was executed, I understand why it felt necessary for Arcade Fire. I respect their decision to create what they’ve created, regardless of my opinions. I look forward to seeing what they churn out in the coming years, especially since they seem to have a knack for relevance.