Arcade Fire, the Canadian indie-rock band that basically owned the genre back in 2010 with their third album The Suburbs, angered a lot of fans when they made a big switch in 2013 on Reflektor, a record that shifted the sound of the band to be more dance-centric. It’s a sound that has apparently continued into their newest release, Everything Now, which has received intensely harsher reviews than its predecessors. Personally, I quite enjoyed Reflektor, though while more pop-oriented, still possessed the sound of Arcade Fire. On Everything Now, however, the fury of the fans and critics seems more reasonable, as the band moves from dance-rock to electro-pop quite dramatically and uncomfortably.
Encompassing everything from ABBA-esque dance numbers to electric-rock carnival music, it’s hard to believe, looking back to just seven years ago, that this is how Arcade Fire would turn up in 2017. Their debut record, Funeral, was able to connect with listeners due to its highly emotional and overly dramatic material, and its right up there with some of my favorite albums of all time. Everything Now feels the complete opposite, as its cold subject matter and uncomfortably ever-changing song structures continually give the cold shoulder.
Much like Father John Misty’s record Pure Comedy, his song “Total Entertainment Forever” dealt with the idea of amusing ourselves to death; using technology so much that we lose the concept of reality as we sink into bliss. “Bedding Taylor Swift every night inside the Oculus Rift, after mister and missus finish dinner and the dishes,” opens Father John Misty. It’s a line that took some criticism due to its use of Taylor Swift and virtual reality pornography, that was also recently defended by Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler.
Arcade Fire’s record Everything Now follows a similar ideology, commenting on our availability to infinite content through the internet and how humans act and use technology. “Everything Now” both scrutinizes and celebrates such infinite access, “Creature Comfort” tackles the growing suicide rate, “Signs of Life” looks for meaning in a meaningless world, and the aptly named “Infinite Content” spews out the corny word play: “Infinite content/We’re infinitely content.”
It’s a record that’s executed fairly well conceptually, but outside the album fails due its incredibly poor song quality. If anything it makes the band’s ideas come off very pretentious, as one could have thought of Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy: “who are you to judge us, when you’re part of the system you criticize?” After all, they sold limited-edition fidget spinners for the record for $109 that had a USB attached to it, which, while added some “booklet” content of some kind, would have also made use of the fidget spinner pretty close to impossible.
It’s quite a good metaphor for the record, that is, if the jagged and at sometimes unbearable songwriting of tracks such as “Peter Pan” and “Chemistry” didn’t have your ears begging for silence. At times it almost didn’t make sense why a record built around the concept of infinite loops and endless content would be so hard to get through just once let alone on repeat. Sadly, Everything Now is the template of what could have been a great record, filled in with the mundane content it so half-halfheartedly scathes.
What do you think? Drop your thoughts in the comments below.