Everything Now

The Arcade Fire

Sony, 2017

http://www.arcadefire.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/07/2017

In my review for the superb but overblown Reflektor, I posited that Arcade Fire had reached the end of that particular road of music and would likely scale back on their fifth album, possibly back to the sound and spirit of Funeral in an attempt to recapture their original spirit.

Well, I was partially wrong.

Everything Now is indeed only one disc and 47 minutes long, but it takes the pop and light disco underpinnings of Reflektor to ridiculous neo-disco heights, resulting in a gaudy, shimmering album with lots of cool old-school dance beats and very little substance. And as substance is something every Arcade Fire album possesses, this is a problem. Foster The People’s glittery new album suffers from the same problem, that of a talented band stuck in a current party it can’t seem to escape, except FTP’s started last night and Win Butler’s started in 1978 with an ABBA record.

I mean, it’s tough to hate on a disco-flavored album. They are fun and catchy. Reflektor’s title track and “We Exist” are two of the band’s best songs. Daft Punk came out of nowhere with 2013’s Random Access Memories, which was everywhere. Perhaps remembering this, Arcade Fire enlists that duo’s Thomas Bangalter for production help on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Everything Now, part of a high-profile producer list here that only serves to prove the band was striving for sound over content. This is a shame, actually, since the content here has depth and resonance, with lyrics concerning our reliance on technology and experiencing the world through fleeting moments and electronic feedback instead of true joy and deeper meaning. I write this as my Facebook feed scrolls past on my phone and hope that my recent post about a dinner my wife and I cooked gets a few likes, so maybe Butler is on to something lyrically.

But musically…not so much. Seriously, “Creature Comfort” has to be one of the worst songs this band has recorded yet. The music is a cross between Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance” and one of those ‘80s arcade games (fitting, I guess) where you’re getting attacked by a spaceship from the planet Voltron or something, and it never changes chords. Butler’s lyrics are interspersed with Regina’s shrill background yells, and dear God make it stop. There’s a germ of an idea in the lyrics, but it’s hard to relate to “If you can’t make me famous / Just make it painless,” as if being universally loved cures all ills or numbs the pain. Maybe briefly, but how many of us will ever know that?

“Infinite Content” comes in two equally annoying parts, one a screeching punk rocker, one a laid-back country drawl. Each is about two minutes and repeats the title over and over. And if you heard “Electric Blue” out of context, you may not be sure who you are listening to, as Regina wails like a choral nun over a disco beat. To its credit, the song has an icy sheen that still pulses with humanity, a digital dream with a bleeding heart. It also kickstarts the album (about 2/3 of the way through) with a solid run of songs that remind you who this band is, after all, and it saves the album from being a loss.

The best of these is “Put Your Money On Me,” which uses a tamer, more insidious disco bass riff and some great tandem vocals to really get under your skin. I wanted to hear it again when it ended, and that’s high praise. “We Don’t Deserve Love” benefits from a good Radiohead vibe and “Everything Now (Continued)” closes the album on a morose yet hopeful note.

So there are a few gems hidden on the dance floor of Arcade Fire’s newest, but I can’t help think fans and newcomers will be somewhat disappointed with this disc. “But I like ABBA,” you may say if you’re over 40. Then by all means, come on down. But this isn’t the Arcade Fire we know and love.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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