Arcade Fire Take Aim at Information Frenzy on ‘Everything Now’
Anyone who has spent time skimming Youtube’s comments section knows how dark, twisted and fickle of a mistress the internet can be. It can get your band discovered and hype you up until you’re big enough to make a satisfying thud when you get torn back down — something the Web also does with poise and flourish. The internet might be the best thing that ever happened to Montreal sensation Arcade Fire, who owe much of their initial success to the blogs that long ago influenced how people discovered new music, a medium that still exists but stands on shaky legs before giants like Apple Music and Spotify’s algorithms. On their fifth studio album, “Everything Now,” Arcade Fire sure aren’t shy about jauntily ripping into the very thing they rode to the top in the first place, all while building on their genre-bending extravagance.
Whether they’re taking critics to task with their own parody of Stereogum or taking aim at a culture dependent on a steady media diet, Arcade Fire have made it clear that they have something to say about our spongelike need to absorb information, no matter how arbitrary. The album’s bouncy titular number immediately touches on our need to have “everything now,” and they’re not wrong, either; not only do we have everything all the time, but it fits in our pocket. Over a shimmery bed of vibrant disco, singer Win Butler croons “Every song that I’ve ever heard/is playing at the same time/it’s absurd,” which helps conjure images of someone suffering from an information overload — not the most surprising affliction in 2017. The band also explore the idea of “Infinite Content” and being infinitely content on two grating interludes, an instance of wordplay that probably seemed really clever at the time of its conception, but now just sounds hackneyed and stale. The transition from interlude to interlude does come off pretty seamlessly, though, with the first playing like an angsty punk barrage before effortlessly dipping into something much more contemplative.
At least the songwriting has improved significantly from 2013’s “Reflekctor,” a bucking beast of a double album that felt more focused on creating new soundscapes than on the deep, vivid songwriting that made “The Suburbs” such a beloved record. The potency of tracks like “Good God Damn” and “Creature Comfort” more than offsets Butler’s laughable attempt at rapping on “Signs of Life,” an impressive feat considering how ridiculous the usually spot-on vocalist comes off here. Although Arcade Fire are known for their genre-defying albums, a cut like “Chemistry” feels really out of place on this record, bouncing and swelling in its own absurdity, while the reggae-infused “Peter Pan” flourishes in its minimalism.
“Everything Now” is hands down Arcade Fire’s most pop-oriented album to date, but that’s far from a bad thing. Thomas Bangalter from Daft Punk steps into the producer’s booth alongside Geoff Barrow of Portishead for the most dance floor-ready offering in the band’s catalogue. Tracks like “Electric Blue” and “Put Your Money on Me” are undeniable in their broad appeal. It’s rare to find a band with a message as poignant and relatable as the indie stalwarts’; it’s even rarer to have that message in such an accessible package. But with a band with such lofty standards, “Everything Now” falls short of being another classic, but it’s a step in the right direction.
“Everything Now” is available on Apple Music July 28.