Arcade Fire. Indie rock legends. Music legends. They have headlined Glastonbury, they have won countless awards and garnered much acclaim from the biggest music publications going, like Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and Being Alex Myles. Yet, listening to Everything Now, it seems hard to believe that this is the same outfit that have produced masterpieces like Funeral and The Suburbs.
With previous album Reflektor, Win Butler and co. found a delicate balance of vintage Arcade Fire and experimentation with electronics and dance driven rhythms, perhaps targeted for a more mainstream audience. With dazzling production from Marcus Dravs and LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, Reflektor consisted of the familiar world-conquering sound of Arcade Fire circa Funeral, married with a welcome experimentation into distorted dance-rock. Although not as astonishing as previous efforts, Reflektor remains a very good album. Listening to Everything Now, I wish I was more sceptical about their direction towards dance music.
Everything Now incorporates a disco feel. A lot of disco feel. With Thomas Bangalter at the helm of production that seems understandable, but it comes nowhere near the dance-floor appeal of Daft Punk. Despite the questionable addition of pan pipes in the title track, this is by far the most addictive tune on the album. Critiquing the ‘entertainment’ age (‘I can’t live without everything now’) the track wouldn’t seem out of place in a 70s disco album and is probably Arcade Fire’s most upbeat single to date. The next track, ‘Signs of Life’ continues the irresistible ABBA-esque grooves and satire of modernity, ironically paired with futuristic sounding synths and percussion.
All seems pretty dandy so far, but then comes their second single from the album, ‘Creature Comfort’. In a very peculiar fashion, Butler sings about suicidal teens and their strive towards fame. How very generalised. Butler’s lyrics address boys who hate their fathers and girls who cut themselves, which all, apparently, lead towards the path of suicide. This approach is clearly a huge over-statement, and is more suited to some offensive under-researched Twitter rambling, certainly not an Arcade Fire album. This track also contains the most bizarre lyric of Arcade Fire’s entire discography, ‘She dreams about dying all the time, she told me she came so close, filled up the bathtub and put on our first record’. Excuse me? Has Win Butler just suggested that his album can save lives? Yeah, it’s pretty good Win, but I don’t think it has the capacity for someone to take the noose off their neck and put the kettle on.
The madness doesn’t end there. The abhorrent reggae vibes of ‘Peter Pan’ and ‘Chemistry’ makes Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da sound like a masterpiece, and the ‘Infinite Content’ tracks are epitomes of album fillers. Although it is refreshing to hear Regine take vocal duties on ‘Electric Blue’, the song-writing and production efforts have truly gone down the pan by this moment, and the chipmunk tell-tale nursery rhyme hook prompted me to warrant this track with only one listen. Then there comes ‘Good God Damn’, a return to Butler’s narcissism towards depressed teens (‘Put your favourite record on baby, fill up the bathtub’). Despite some pleasant instrumentation, like the clean guitar riff and soft synth pad sounds, I had truly run out of patience by this point. The fader wanking on ‘We Don’t Deserve Love’ concludes up the album quite nicely; despite two strong tracks at the start of the album, the song-writing and production efforts slalom into mediocrity and becomes more suited for some background music in H&M. The concept of satirising the entertainment age is not an original one, Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy is one glaring example, but unlike Misty, Butler et al do not pull it off. I perhaps wouldn’t have been so brutal if I hadn’t have been aware of Arcade Fire’s brilliant previous efforts, but I’m afraid I can’t help but compare. And comparing Funeral or The Suburbs to Everything Now is like comparing a Rolls Royce to a wheelbarrow.
Album Score: 3/10
Words by Alex Myles.