Arcade Fire's latest album has been buried under a mound of poop, but we're digging it out. Find out why.Columbia Records, 2017
8.3 / 10
“I’m in the black again,” sings Win Butler as the opening line for Arcade Fire‘s new album. An admission of depression, yet the music speaks otherwise. Instead of dreary or somber, Everything Now pops with vibrant dance energy. So dancey that even the album’s title track channels the ghost of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”. Wait, isn’t Arcade Fire an alternative rock band? The same responsible for such heavy hitting anthems as “Wake Up” and “Ready To Start”. Yes, the very same, but rather than stick to the tried-and-true formula, this band takes to the laboratory like mad scientists. They’re always tweaking the band’s DNA; working with LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy on their last album, Reflektor, and now Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter and Pulp’s Steve Mackey on this one. But that’s not all that’s changing with Everything Now.
This new album arrives via Columbia Records rather than Merge. Yep, Arcade Fire is a bona fide major label band now. The big question here is why? They did score two number one albums in the US while on Merge — The Suburbs and Reflektor. The Suburbs even won album of the year at the 2011 Grammys. They did this while on an independent label. What will moving to a major label accomplish other than pissing many longtime fans off? Your guess is good as mine here.
So with the change in sound (a dancier, disco style) and a new label, the band is getting its fair share of shit. Maybe even more than its fair share; we’re talking dung piles as high as an elephant. But to be honest, some of it is very deserved. After all, Arcade Fire tackled the promotion of this album in interesting ways; though, “interesting” is a nice way of saying stupid. One is the band requiring a strict dress code for the audience of a Brooklyn live event. They trolled the Kendall and Kylie Jenner shirtgate incident. Also, they released the track list in anagrams for fans to figure out. It’s the kind of promotion akin to Kanye West or Father John Misty. It gets attention but not always the best kind.
However, the band is lucky in that many of Everything Now‘s songs are good and some are great. Even the ones that are arguably bad like “Chemistry” aren’t without their charms. This particular song floats with a jazzy/reggae style that pulls you into a walking parade of handclaps and early ’90s radio rock nostalgia. Hate it now, but catch yourself coming back to it later. “Creature Comfort”, one of the album’s best songs, tackles body image, suicide, and a hunger for fame all in one fell swoop. It helps give a little more meaning to an otherwise filler track, “Good God Damn”, which offers another piece of the story.
“Infinite Content” gets a double dose of attention with a rock half and country western half. Basically, the gist is that we’re spending (wasting) our money on infinite content like the ability to stream an unlimited amount of music, movies through streaming services, etc. Yes, it’s a future that’s truly giving to us all. Many of these topics are fairly obvious and easy to come to. They may not even need acknowledgment. But Arcade Fire knows how to make them work as songs. “Peter Pan” comes closest to a classic Arcade Fire song. If the production on it wasn’t so modern or well-crafted, many would probably argue this as one of their BEST songs. Imagine it appearing on an album like Funeral, it would totally work. Here, it just gets a little more flesh on the bones.
Is Everything Now Arcade Fire’s best album? Nah. But it doesn’t tarnish their catalog as much as many are suggesting. What I dig overall about Everything Now is its immediacy. It’s a quick ride with catchy songs yet ones that harbor bigger ideas for you to sink your teeth into over time. Some will say the band is in a creative slump or pulling a lot of crazy stunts for the sake of being silly. Maybe they are. But I still want everything now.