The Daily Gamecock

Review: Arcade Fire's latest is meaningful despite lyrical hiccups

Album: "Everything Now," Arcade Fire

Release Date: July 28

Label: Columbia Records

Duration: 47 minutes

Grade: B+

Indie darlings Arcade Fire have made a diverse body of work through the years — including everything from baroque pop anthems to grungy electro-dance tracks, which appeal not only to their primary fringe audience but also to the Recording Academy behind the Grammys and critics alike. 

After winning Album of the Year for 2010’s “The Suburbs,” the group came back with the epic double album “Reflektor” which showcased their greatest range of sounds to date. After so many successes, however, some may wonder if they could continue adding to that success or if they would falter with time.

Arcade Fire released “Everything Now,” their fifth studio album, on July 28. Although it may not outdo anything they’ve done previously, it certainly has moments that live up to expectations.

The title track and a brief prelude begin the album; formatting-wise, this is less than ideal as they’re billed as two separate tracks, but beyond that, there aren't many negatives about the two songs. Arcade Fire has its sights set on consumerism in the main five-minute track, challenging the idea that having more will leave one feeling fulfilled. “Every inch of space in your head / Is filled up with the things that you read,” lead singer Win Butler sings, postulating that our thoughts are becoming less original because there’s so much written work we consume.

The group also has a knack for blending emotions beautifully and almost tragically through the instrumentals alone; on the title track, cheer joins with melancholy all through the piano’s main nostalgic tune. When coupled with strings later in the song, the already full-sounding piece reaches a tone of near-desperation as the strings climb higher in pitch. Without question, “Everything Now” holds its own against the band’s previous leading songs, the beloved “Suburbs” and “Reflektor,” which featured David Bowie. 

The next song, “Signs of Life,” appears to center on tracking down extraterrestrials; its sound effects feature eerie, arpeggiating electronic notes as a nod to the theme from “The X-Files.” Handclaps and a saxophone lighten things up a bit, giving the song nearly the same aesthetic as a ‘70s cop drama. On the other hand, the songwriting falls flat at times — they take a moment to list the seven days of the week, a la Rebecca Black. Outside of having an avant-garde music video and generally being a fun song, it isn’t much to write home about.

“Creature Comfort” runs into the same problem with lyrics that seem lazy. “Some girls hate their bodies / Stand in the mirror and wait for the feedback” rhymes with absolutely nothing around it and is far too literal. Another drawback is co-lead singer, Butler’s wife Regine Chassagne, singing periodically; her voice is oddly high-pitched and not as pleasant to listen to as it was on “Sprawl II.” The concept behind the song is interesting, however, as they deal with increased prevalence and normalcy of suicide. The music mirrors this, as a sinister electronic beat starts the song but quickly becomes innocuous and rosy.

The greatest aspect of “Peter Pan” is the angelic piano chord played at intervals under Butler’s vocals. It sweetens the song and makes “Be my Wendy / I’ll be your Peter Pan” more sentimental. The lyrics center on growing old with someone, and they deliver above and beyond. “Chemistry” is a far different story. Horns toot in an almost tongue-in-cheek way, only to be interrupted by an incongruous chorus straight out of an Airborne Toxic Event song. If you’re looking for a campy song by Arcade Fire, skip this one and go for “Women of a Certain Age."

After “Chemistry,” Arcade Fire continues an unfortunate habit of inserting one-minute filler songs at inopportune moments in their albums. “Infinite Content” and “Infinite_Content” add nothing to the work as a whole, other than a half-witty turn of phrase (“Infinite content / We’re infinitely content”) and a string melody reminiscent of The Killers’ “When You Were Young." The lyrics between the two are nearly identical, and the only difference lies in one being punkish and the other scaled back. The songs themselves are pleasant, but don't seem necessary.

On the other hand, “Electric Blue” is a well-crafted callback to the band’s previous disco-influenced successes, and “Good God Damn” seems like a lost track from Arctic Monkeys’ “AM” with its tactful, bass-driven groove. These two are a welcome reprieve from the stretch of subpar songs before them.

“We Don’t Deserve Love” hobbles steadily forward with a persistent yet lax drum grounding its wavering synth noises. It borrows some of its saccharine from “Peter Pan,” incorporating the pensiveness of a ride home with a loved one and the overarching theme of a saturated consumer market. It brings the album to its end in a subdued though celebratory manner, matching the quality of “Everything Now” and complementing its tone.

Ultimately, “Everything Now” is not as airtight as Arcade Fire's previous works, but its strengths make up for its weaknesses. What at times feels rushed also sometimes feels meticulous and meaningful. They took the time to ensure that most of the songs lead into one another, creating a cohesive body of work that will stand the test of time, even stacked against their other efforts. 

Overall, “Everything Now” may not be "everything," but it is a satisfying experience whether you’re a casual listener or longtime fan.  


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