Arcade Fire’s fifth album offers a social critique coming not from a place of condescending high ground, but from a fleeting moment of self-reflection.
The project attempts to go beyond the music and engage audiences with the album’s theme. The band created satirical fake news sites, fake commercials and a marketing campaign aimed to satirize the technological era, purchasing disorders and the insatiable cycle of consumerism. They even engaged with KFC on Twitter.
If there’s one criteria in which Arcade Fire excels, it is collectivism. Since 2004’s “Funeral,” Arcade Fire has penned some of the greatest albums of our era. Songs like “Wake Up” and “Haiti” from this first record are beloved anthems that engage masses of people from around the world. 2007’s “Neon Bible” is an esteemed critique of commercialized religious institutions while the nostalgic “Suburbs” gave the group legendary status and a Grammy for Album of the Year in 2010.
Since that Grammy win, the band has reformed its identity. Critics have chastised 2013’s “Reflektor” and 2017’s “Everything Now” with aggressive assessments and disdain.
But is this hate on their most recent album, “Everything Now,” justified? It’s true, vocalist Win Butler used to burst hallelujah-style choruses with strong conviction and a confidence we couldn’t find within ourselves. On “Everything Now,” however, we feel him almost accusing us for our habits amid lyrics that we aren’t even sure he believes.
Those unhappy with Arcade Fire’s transformation have LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy to thank. The record executive obsessed with making a spectacle of his “canceled” project put forth 300 hours of work into “Reflektor,” replacing acoustic guitars and violins with modular synthesizers and dance rhythms.
A corrupted Arcade Fire now suffers scrutiny from the critics who once adored them, and the band struggles to regain the thematic conviction that was lost in 2013.
Disregarding the album’s contrast with their first three albums, “Everything Now” has regained some of the magic that was missed in “Reflektor.” “Put your money on me” puts the spotlight on the theme rather than the performer, taking the ego away from the song. “Electric Blue” contrasts Regime’s human voice with a slew of synthesis, creating a refreshing human moment amongst the album’s accusations.
The title track features a memorable, infectious hook, a joyous melody that could unite people of different worlds. The best part of Arcade Fire’s music is that the audience feels a part of it. This song perhaps functions as the “Hey Jude” of the technological era. It is truly the crown jewel of the record, where listener and performer are united through globally immersive music.
Arcade Fire has transcended conventional music because of this unification between performer and audience. Its music surpasses language due to the epic proportions of its instrumentation. The band’s power comes from the listeners’ relationships with the music.
That being said, “Everything Now” succeeds conceptually, shedding light on a fan attempting suicide while listening to “Funeral.” In the context of the album, this assessment is also a reflection on the band’s identity as it grows and changes.
As a band committed to those in need and its fan base, there is one thing we can always count on: Arcade Fire will deliver albums that connect and engage the most stranded of individuals and make them a part of a grand collective larger than they imagined.