Album Review: Arcade Fire – Everything Now by Nathan Brooks

I went into Arcade Fire’s fifth studio album not expecting much. Despite liking the singles, most reviews I read suggested this was an underwhelming effort from the Canadian art rock band. Admittedly, their 2013 release Reflektor received similarly mixed reviews and I love that album, but I was still lowering my expectations. As a result, I was pleasantly surprised. Everything Now may not be Arcade Fire’s best work, but it is still an undoubtedly excellent record.

Album Review: Arcade Fire – Everything Now

Everything Now is book ended by two similar tracks, Everything_Now (continued) and Everything Now (continued). If played consecutively, the last track flows seamlessly into the first, essentially creating an infinitely looping album not dissimilar to King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s 2016 album Nonagon Infinity.Through this, the album’s central theme of the endless stream of media is cleverly realised. It’s not a new concept, some may argue complaining about the excesses of entertainment is becoming excessive itself. However, Arcade Fire keep things fresh by combining the topic with infectious dance-rock tunes.

The title track has been regularly compared to ABBA and the uplifting, ‘70s piano that powerfully propels it is certainly reminiscent of the Swedish pop group. The accented offbeats on the hit-hat ensure the track is easily danced to, making this the most radio friendly Arcade Fire have ever been. The funky bassline and not quite rapped vocals on Signs of Life confirm the band are expanding on the dance-rock direction they turned towards on Reflektor. I understand why some fans are disappointed by this, but I couldn’t be happier. Arcade Fire’s sound has only grown since they got groovier and Everything Now allows for the diversity to increase further.

Creature Comfort is an angsty new wave track powered by a visceral synth bassline courtesy of Portishead’s Geoff Barrow. The anxiety in Peter Pan‘s lyrics is reflected by a heavily distorted bassline and erratic electronic instrumentation. Infinite Content is a snappy, punky track and Infinite_Content redresses it in a more mellow, Americana outfit to further drive the message home. Régine Chassagne provides falsetto vocals on Electric Blue that melt sublimely into the song’s electro-punk sound, similar to the way Thom Yorke of Radiohead‘s vocals become part of the music on their more left field work.

Good God Damn is another funky track, whilst the epic Put Your Money on Me showcases more ABBA influence. We Don’t Deserve Love’s subtle reggae beat and gorgeous pedal steel guitar euphorically crescendo the album to a close. It’s easily Arcade Fire’s best finale since In the Backseat from their debut album Funeral.  Admittedly, not everything’s perfect. Chemistry is the album’s biggest slip-up. It is fun, but its reggae rock sound ultimately comes off as sloppy and tasteless. The wide array of styles on Everything Now also make it Arcade Fire’s least consistent album. However, I’m not too bothered. As far as I’m concerned, the odd flaw is an inevitable side effect of the band exploring exciting new sounds.

“Régine Chassagne provides falsetto vocals on Electric Blue that melt sublimely into the song’s electro-punk sound, similar to the way Thom Yorke of Radiohead’s vocals become part of the music on their more left field work.”

Others have also “Régine Chassagne provides falsetto vocals on Electric Blue that melt sublimely into the song’s electro-punk sound, similar to the way Thom Yorke of Radiohead‘s vocals become part of the music on their more left field work.”scoffed at the lyrics for being nothing more than out of touch, pseudo-intellectual drivel. To me, they feel more like a cathartic release of society’s pressure, similar to Radiohead’s OK Computer. Arcade Fire’s lyrics are glibber than Radiohead’s, leading many to interpret them as inauthentic. However, beneath the (admittedly corny) infinite content/infinitely content puns lies real sincerity. The failing health of Win’s father inspired Peter Pan, whilst We Don’t Deserve Love expresses insecurity about sin and acceptance, possibly stemming from Win’s mormon upbringing. Even Signs of Life, a track that appears on the surface as a critique of the world’s shallowness, is actually an introspective reflection on Win’s own flawed past.

So, Everything Now may not be a perfect album, but I’m fine with that. The band are experimenting with their music and it pays off way more than it fails. The dance-rock approach has made their sound more enjoyable, but it’s also left space for it to grow in diversity and complexity. I can get why some will roll their eyes at the lyrics, but if you give them a chance they’re a lot more human than they initially appear. Arcade Fire have changed a lot since their debut album, but that doesn’t mean they’ve lost what made them so appealing to begin with. Everything Now is an exciting addition to their discography that indicates there’s no risk of them getting stale anytime soon.