|Arcade Fire||Everything Now|
Arcade Fire — Everything Now (July 28, 2017) •−• ““Everything Now” is the uncomfortable fusion that many feared Arcade Fire’s last one — 2013’s sprawling “Reflektor,” a collaboration with dance~rock avatar James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem — would be. But where that album found Murphy integrating a beefier bottom into the group’s familiar sound, this collaboration is a trickier fit. While the production throughout the album is stunning and Bangalter’s fingerprints abound — from the pulsating rhythm tracks reminiscent of Daft Punk’s recent work with The Weeknd to the soaring string arrangements that are a hallmark of their 2013 Grammy Album of the Year winner, “Random Access Memories” — the irony and deep references inherent in Daft Punk and Pulp’s work jars against Arcade Fire’s ingrained earnestness; the elaborate electronic rhythms clash with their anthemic, large~print hooks; and humor is a hat that this band wears uneasily. It would have been far worse had Arcade Fire played it safe — yet it remains to be seen whether this challenging and potentially polarizing album will inspire their rabid fanbase to follow pied~piper style, or resist like a dog being dragged to the vet.” (Jem Aswad)
•−• Montreal indie rockers who topped charts and won awards with their intense, anthemic, multi~layered vision of alternative rock.
Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Album release: July 28, 2017
Recorded: September 2016 ~ April 2017
Studio: Sundragon Studios, New York City
Record Label: Columbia Records
01. Everything Now (Slow) 0:46
02. Everything Now 5:01
03. Signs of Life 4:34
04. Creature Comfort 4:42
05. Peter Pan 2:49
06. Chemistry 3:33
07. Infinite Content: Fast 1:42
08. Infinite Content: Slow 1:40
09. Electric Blue 4:00
10. Good God Damn 3:34
11. Put Your Money on Me 5:50
12. We Don’t Deserve Love 6:18
13. Everything Now (Continued) 2:31
Producer: Arcade Fire, Markus Dravs, Thomas Bangalter, Steve Mackey, Geoff Barrow
BY PHILIP COSORES ON JULY 20, 2017, 6:00AM / SCORE: C+
• Arcade Fire’s 2013 rollout for Reflektor was, in many ways, as memorable as that record’s music. There was the guerrilla graffiti art campaign that cryptically ushered in awareness of the project before seeing blowback for property damage. There were the secret shows where fans were instructed to dress up in their shiniest. There was the Saturday Night Live post~show special that featured the likes of Michael Cera, Ben Stiller, and Bono. Then came the radio concerts, Coachella, and eventually an arena tour. Manager Scott Rodger called it “punching above their weight class,” but really, Arcade Fire were just bulking up to join the ranks of the heavyweights.
• This, of course, was a couple album release trends ago. Since then, we’ve weathered the age of the surprise album and now move further into a time where streaming exclusivity might prove the new norm. But in 2013, Kanye West took to projecting music videos on the side of buildings and Daft Punk was unveiling commercials ahead of Coachella headliners. Arcade Fire were just following suit with what they considered their peers. The band may have been on an indie label, but you didn’t have to look further than singer Win Butler’s Yeezy~adorned feet to know where the band belonged.
• Unsurprisingly, the strategy proved a success when looking at the numbers — the album topped the Billboard 200. But in its wake, both the band and the music landscape changed. These bold campaigns exhausted listeners, with the move to the surprise album release a direct reaction to those sick of the overwrought marketing that treated them less like fans and more like consumers. And, as such, Arcade Fire’s follow~up, Everything Now, is void of an event aesthetic, with an unveiling that has drifted towards the sheepishly traditional. The band put forth a whopping four advanced tracks from the collection, with the most extreme bit of creativity coming from the lead~up appearing in the form of a new Twitter account and song~title anagrams. It was like the band had learned from their mistakes, or they knew that their status was secure and less in need of frills.
• Or, maybe, Arcade Fire sensed that Everything Now doesn’t deserve to be hyped. The 13~song collection is the first album of the band’s career that veers away from being a greater statement. Hell, the 13 songs are really just 10, with three reprises included, notably the record’s bookends that find different ways of presenting the title track. When fans actually sit down to hear Everything Now and find just six new offerings outside of the singles, it will be hard not to feel a small sense of disappointment, particularly considering how thin many of the new songs are on the album. In a word, Everything Now finds Arcade Fire in a place they’ve never been. It’s unsubstantial.
• That’s not to say that they don’t still sound huge. With its six core members and rotating cast of collaborators — including producers Steve Mackey of Pulp, Geoff Barrow of Portishead, and, most notably, Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter — Everything Now still floats on a sea of ideas. The lead single and title track may ape Abba with its airy piano intro, but the propulsive bass line, orchestral flourishes, and pointed lyrics are very much the band’s own. It’s a song that both floats and prances, and its current fixture status on alternative radio is very much deserved. Regardless of how the album is received by critics or their longtime fans, the song “Everything Now” has already assured the band will reach a new level of commercial success with the biggest single of their career.
• Elsewhere, “Creature Comfort” and “Electric Blue” also benefit from the band’s fearlessness. They work without a net on the former as they tackle suicide, unabashed in their aim to make a song that could be considered a life saver. On the latter, the band have never reveled so much in a groove, giving co~lead Regine Chassagne the chance to carry a song in the way she’s previously soared on tracks like “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” and “Haiti”. When the album comfortably bounces from disco to new wave, it doesn’t much matter that they aren’t tied together in the strictest sense. Still, the resulting work is a record without a signature sound. There’s nothing baroque about Arcade Fire in 2017, even if the strings and brass and woodwinds are still present.
• But the cornucopia approach also reveals the instability of the Arcade Fire ship. On “Chemistry”, a foray into trumpet~tooting, up~strummed dub results in a watch~checking three~and~a~half~minute debacle. “You and me, we got chemistry,” Butler sings, clearly lying, the band sounding more out of tune with each other than ever. A pair of endeavors into “Infinite Content” show a song that sputters both as a snotty punk speedball and as sedated, mid~tempo jangle~rock. By presenting the song in multiple forms, the picture of Arcade Fire is of a band that can’t quite settle on what they want to sound like, throwing noodles at a wall until something sticks. And when Butler cops Debbie Harry’s rap cadence from “Rapture” on goofily earnest “Signs of Life”, homage quickly becomes parody.
• Of the non~singles, there is only a single moment that sounds inspired. On penultimate number “We Don’t Deserve Love”, Win Butler is finally singing with vulnerability. His voice shakes fragilely while his elastic melody never quite settles in comfortably. It’s a song that has direction, that is mapped out with determination, that takes its time to build to a grand conclusion. Coming at the end of the album, it’s both a reminder of how emotionally affecting Arcade Fire can still be and just how devoid of heart~tugging swells the rest of the album is in the end. Because that’s always been the band’s MO, right? As they’ve grown from clubs to amphitheaters to headlining festivals and arenas, the challenge has been to maintain the emotional immediacy that can fill the biggest rooms. And, until now, they’ve been up for that task. But when “Everything Now” returns to close the album and we get the first big orchestral crescendo, it’s nourishing. In contrast, Everything Now’s bulk starves its audience from what they’d hope for in an Arcade Fire album.
• Consider how many first experienced Reflektor. When the band uploaded the album in its entirety to YouTube, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect fans to push play, to sit back, and let the music wash over them. This wasn’t because Arcade Fire could successfully incorporate ‘80s synth tones into their music. It was to feel something deeply and to feel it together. They were a band so big that its audience could genuinely feel like they were a part of it, that the “whoa ohs” of “Wake Up” weren’t complete unless everybody was singing along. Everything Now puts that chapter of the band to bed in favor of something more palatable to a wider audience, giving up being beloved in favor of being ambitious. When Butler opens the album proclaiming, “We can just pretend/ We’ll make it home again/ From everything now,” it lands like a eulogy to the band they used to be. There are plenty of new places for Arcade Fire to explore together, but for the audience, it feels a lot like being left behind.
Essential Tracks: “Everything Now”, “Creature Comfort”, “We Don’t Deserve Love”, and “Electric Blue” • https://consequenceofsound.net/
Review: Arcade Fire’s ‘Everything Now’ album feels like staggering through a disco with a dagger in your side
An eclectic album of multifarious joys.
Christopher Hooton / July 21, 2017 / Score: ★★★★★
• Filing a review of Arcade Fire’s new album, one that will be aggregated with myriad others, is really antithetical to the whole point of it, i.e. that we’re so overwhelmed with thoughts, feelings, opinions — “content” — in 2017, that the meaning of words is diminishing at a rate of terabytes~per~second. This palpable modern information overload has been niggling at the band for years, but Everything Now is their fullest expression of it yet.
• Here’s frontman Win Butler on the matter recently:
• “There’s sort of an everything~nowness to life. I feel like almost every event and everything that happens surrounds you on all sides. Some of it is fake and some of it is real and some of it is trying to sell you something and some of it is profound. Every moment of everything refracts into a thousand different things. It’s trying to capture some of the experiences of being alive now in all its flaws and all its glory.
• “I remember being in a cafe once and I was overhearing this woman talking about watching The Sopranos and they had just finished watching The Sopranos, like they kind of binge~watched The Sopranos over a weekend. One of them was saying, “Oh, it’s so annoying that there’s no more Sopranos. I guess I’m gonna have to find something else to watch.” This was maybe six years ago~five years ago and it just hit me that this thing that took ten years to make someone watched in a weekend and was annoyed there wasn’t more. I was like whoa; I feel like culturally the moment and this kind of era that we’ve entered into of kind of everything~nowness has positive and negative sides to it but it’s definitely a new way of being.”
• The torrent of content we absorb on a daily basis is a topic ripe for art that has been largely been under~explored in music thus far, but Arcade Fire don’t do it in sombre and morbid fashion, Everything Now being their most upbeat, joyful album to date. It’s like they’ve chopped up a bunch of Abba tracks with this album, tenderised them, sprinkled them with glitter and reassembled them into something a little more subtle and insouciant.
• ‘Everything Now (Continued)’ is the opener (one of several tracks given a witheringly file name~esque title), an immediate and alluring blast of bleary synth, with Butler introducing the Everything Now moniker that the band have playfully turned into a sort of pseudo~capitalist conglomerate on Twitter.
• ‘Everything Now’ follows, the album’s most natural single, a dazzling pop track that’s equal parts Gloria Gaynor and Toto and could pass as happy and ecstatic if you managed to ignore the bleak lyrics.
• ‘Signs of Life’ continues the disco vibe but shimmies towards funk, a simultaneous obituary and christening for Saturday nights which the band sardonically described as being “either about the futility of seeking meaning in a meaningless world or a celebration of a bangin’ night in the club.”
• The tone starts to shift with ‘Creature Comfort’, the closest the album wants to come to that classic ‘big’ Arcade Fire sound, an anthem about not killing yourself with a synth line so fuzzy it feels about 15 feet thick. “God, make me famous,” Butler pines, “If you can’t, just make it painless.” Its maniacally euphoric and yet wounded feel typifies the album, bringing to mind someone straining to dance their way through a disco, no~one noticing the dagger sticking out of them and the trail of blood on the dancefloor behind them.
• ‘Chemistry’ is one of the album’s finest gems, its opening sounding like a street parade and its chorus introducing a guttural guitar riff reminiscent of No Doubt. ‘Infinite Content’ is the album’s most succinct (though not exactly subtle) examination of its central theme — intentionally in your face and kind of punk, embodying the feeling of opening a browser window to hundreds of tabs as Butler shouts: “Infinite content! Infinite content! We’re infinitely content!”
• A straight up reprise follows, ‘Infinite: Content’, but in a folk style — perhaps alluding to the millions of cover versions of songs that litter the internet — and evoking a sense of digital mania.
• ‘Electric Blue’ is creeping up on ‘Creature Comfort’ as my favourite song on the LP, revolving around a shimmering synth and vocal that sounds like it circles so high in the atmosphere it’s brushing frost of itself. Combined with wistful lyrics, it embodies the almost dream~like quality of the grief that comes post~break~up. This is a Régine Chassagne~centric track, which is always welcome and she proves time and time again to just be the perfect foil to husband Butler’s lead vocal.
• Track 11, ‘Put Your Money on Me’, is the album’s grower, seeing a simple, tender vocal balancing on a pulsing bass line, while the bowing, discordant ‘We Don’t Deserve Love’ straight up sounds like sunrise on a far away planet.
• ‘Everything Now (continued)’ mercifully provides us with more of the album’s moreish opening melody, the vocal line from ‘Everything Now’ being worked in as a string part. It’s a self~referential finish that ends the album where it begins, demanding a repeat listen and speaking to that recyclable nature of content it’s been obsessed with throughout.
• Arcade Fire’s fifth studio album doesn’t have the sprawling nature of The Suburbs or Reflektor nor the cacophonic intensity of Funeral, but the sequin~festooned, disco~ish Everything Now is every bit as good as these albums in its own right. Departures in sound are often unwelcome when we’re already so happy with where a beloved band are, but, in this case, their experiments are a complete success.
|Arcade Fire||Everything Now|