Arcade Fire try out new sound on ‘Everything Now,’ but fail at evolution
It would be easy to say that “Everything Now,” the latest release from Canadian art rock band Arcade Fire, is the group’s most accessible album to date. But I think that’s missing part of the album’s essence.
Instead, I’d say “Everything Now” is Arcade Fire’s first attempt at pandering to the lowest common denominator.
Arcade Fire are, of course, giants of indie rock, well-known for their big sound, incorporating the elements of baroque pop with a variety of instruments layered into the mix.
But somehow, on “Everything Now,” all of those sounds that Arcade Fire are known for are dropped, instead opting for a disco-influenced dance rock.
Now, I’m not one to complain about a band changing their sound just on principle; just last week, I gave Tyler, The Creator high praise for switching his sound up. The problem with “Everything Now” isn’t that it’s a different sound; it’s that it’s a less exciting one.
Things start out okay on the album. The title track, the second on the album, is easily the best cut on the whole thing. It’s just fun, with a piano part that recalls Donna Summer and 1970s roller rinks, a stark contrast to Win Butler’s ghostly, insistent voice. This track serves as the album’s anthem, a sign of good things to come on the rest of the record.
Unfortunately, that sign doesn’t point to anything, as the album falls off fairly quickly after that.
“Signs of Life,” the next track, is just as catchy as the previous tune, but as it stretches on, the lyrics get lazier and lazier, feeling like Butler and company are straining to get this song to the right length.
The third verse kicks off with Butler saying “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday/ Friday, Saturday, sometimes Sunday/ Love is hard, sex is easy,/ God in Heaven, could you please me?” The last song that I can remember that listed every day of the week like that was Rebecca Black’s (a YouTube “sensation” who gained notoriety for awfulness) “Friday,” so I don’t think I need to fully explain why this is just lazy writing.
After that, Arcade Fire spends a full 50 percent of the song’s length just repeating the chorus and bridge over and over.
The album moves into “Creature Comfort,” a song that somehow manages to be both one of the volume’s best and worst tracks.
Featuring some of the best lyrics on the record, the song highlights the pain many people struggle with on a daily basis: “Some boys hate themselves,/ Spend their lives resenting their fathers./ Some girls hate their bodies,/ Stand in the mirror and wait for the feedback.”
Butler’s performance on this track is absolutely haunting, somehow managing to make the pain-filled lyrics into a chant for audiences at future shows.
The problem with the track, though, comes from Butler’s wife and founding member of the band, Régine Chassagne, whose vocals have some sort of effect added to them that makes them absolutely grating. She sounds ridiculously shrill, acting as an Ono to Butler’s Lennon.
The biggest problem with “Everything Now” is that Arcade Fire repeatedly demonstrates that they just don’t know when to stop playing with the same idea. I already illustrated the issues with repetition on “Signs of Life,” but that’s just the start of it.
“Good God Damn,” a late album track, is another one that’s about 50 percent chorus. But it’s even more egregious here, as the chorus is a single phrase (“Maybe there’s a good God, damn”) repeated to the point of absurdity. I counted: Of the song’s 39 lines, exactly 19 of them are just that line.
About halfway through the album, Arcade Fire ratchets up the repetition to such an extreme level that it feels like it has to be a joke. Back-to-back tracks “Infinite Content” and “Infinite_Content” are, lyrically, exactly the same. The first is a punk-ish track, while the second is sort of a country rendition of the same track. I couldn’t even tell you what the point of this is, but it just feels like a gimmick.
“Everything Now” undoubtedly has good moments on it, but Arcade Fire seems totally uncomfortable with the new sound they’re trying out, so they reach for the worst possible security blanket: repeating themselves ad nauseam.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6119 or on Twitter @PatKernan.
Album: ‘Everything Now’
Artist: Arcade Fire
Label: Sonovox, Columbia
Best Song: ‘Everything Now’
Worst Songs: ‘Infinite Content,’ ‘Infinite_Content,’ ‘Good God Damn’