Arcade Fire Takes Us For A Loop In Their New Album, Everything Now
There is only one way to describe my feelings about Arcade Fire’s new album Everything Now:
In the classic “overbearing father” way, I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed…
I came into Everything Now a little apprehensive. Not only had most of the singles failed to adhere to my heavy expectations, but the lyrics felt less eloquent compared to 2013’s Reflektor. I also wasn’t sure if the heavy emphasis on dance would pay off as well as it did on Reflektor. Despite all this, I was ecstatic for a new Arcade Fire release as it has been a long four years since their last project.
My favorite aspect of Arcade Fire is how dynamic some of their songs are. In “Crown of Love”, from their first album Funeral, the slow burning melody explodes towards the end of the track. “Antichrist Television Blues”, from their sophomore album Neon Bible, builds ferociously and at the end of the song abruptly cuts short. “Normal Person” from Reflektor, assaults your ears when the rock music hits. These varying paces are what makes Arcade Fire’s music so magical. After the first listen I was shaking my head like the good lad in the gif above. Apart from the title track, I felt like the dance influence was not paying off in the slightest. Every song felt dragged out and in moments where I expected the melody to metamorphize, it fell into a loop. This may pay dividends on a thematic level, but brings nothing to the table when it comes to musical complexity. The constraint that the genre of dance put on the more fluid style of Arcade Fire resulted in a bland product by their standards.
Thematically I thought the concept presented on the title track, “Everything Now”, could have been explored in a more interesting and involved fashion. Including a two-part reprise to “Everything Now” that literally looped the whole album and two versions of “Infinite Content” was a cute thematic choice but left much more to desire. Upon first listen, the worst thing by far about the album was the lyrics because most of them don’t contribute at all to the overall theme well. The lyrics of “Creature Comfort” and “Good God Damn” sound like they belong on a cheesier version of Funeral. One of my favorite songs instrumentally, “Creature Comfort”, has by far the worst lyrics. “Some boys hate themselves/Spend their lives resenting their fathers. Some girls hate their bodies/Stand in the mirror and wait for the feedback”, paints the most stereotypical picture of struggling youths. The line referencing Funeral feels very awkward and almost boastful. There is a similar stereotypical vibe on the song “Chemistry” that drones on for almost four minutes. The song becomes borderline creepy with the line “Well you've got one choice, maybe two/You can leave with me or I'll go with you. I know you haven't even met me yet/But you're gonna love me, baby when you get to know me”. The song “Electric Blue” drones on and on with lyrics that are hard to understand. The one glistening light in a dark sea is the song “We Don’t Deserve Love”. Instrumentally this song is quite beautiful with Régine Chassagne’s backing vocals. The lyrics also paints a similar picture to many of the songs from The Suburbs. The theme of everything now is brought in with lyrics like “Terrible song on the radio/Baby what else is new? Been hiding my scars in broad daylight bars/Behind laugh tracks on TV”. These lyrics are still cheesy but they create a narrative that many of the songs in the tracklisting lack. On initial listen the album came off heavy on the concept that was not well developed and gimmicky at times.
But these were merely my first impressions…
Since this is an Arcade Fire album, I thought I would give it time to develop and give my final thoughts. After about a week I warmed up to the instrumentation to most of the songs and even the concept grew on me. What I couldn’t concede was the almost simpleton nature of the lyrics throughout this album. I still believe that these lyrics would be better suited for some cheesy emo band but nevertheless everything else has grown on me. The one song that I have warmed up to the most is “Chemistry”. Although the lyrics are still tasteless, the melding of Dance and Rock creates a melody that I can’t get out of my head. The instrumentation builds throughout the song as the chorus hits and it is electric. A similar thing happens at the beginning of “Signs of Life” as the strings give way to guitar licks while the beat is building. I’m still pretty indifferent about the song but the groove has grown on me a lot. “Electric Blue” has also grown on me quite a bit as the gibberish became clearer. The imagery created with the lyrics are stellar but suffer from falling into Dance limbo towards the end. The groove is absolutely indelible and the song overall reminds me of a poor man’s Sprawl II. “Good God Damn” has a Marque Moon-esque riff that permeates the entire track. The lyrical twist within the song grant it a little more variation and the deepest point in the album with the line “Maybe there's a good God, damn/Could there be a good God? Damn”. “Put Your Money on Me” had one my least favorite instrumental at first listen, but the slow burning build-up won me over in the long run. The lyrics are a step above cheesy but is insistent on the theme of death.
Arcade Fire is no stranger to using death as a theme throughout their music (Funeral) and so the weird use of death as a thematic element is puzzling. The music, in general, is more upbeat and this creates a weird contrast with the focus on death. The lyrical choices seem lazy as they reuse the image of someone trying to commit suicide in a bathtub while listening to a record multiple times. The lame duck use of many stereotypical dark tropes like this is an aspect of the theme that I cannot reconcile. All the other aspects of the theme have grown on me a little bit. Beyond the cheeky multiple tracks and looping on itself, the genre of Dance is classified by music that loops over itself. The idea of infinite content and “Everything Now” in society is very potent and I think Arcade Fire explores this with the instrumentation and Dance Rock sound they are creating. That being said, how they made the lyrical jump to darker topics from this doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. The only thing I can surmise is that without “Everything Now” or behind the guise of “Everything Now” society becomes darker. This is definitely vivid imagery but it is just too much of a stretch for this to be a concept for the album. On “Total Entertainment Forever”, Father John Misty criticizes this “Everything Now” philosophy with entertainment into a beautiful story. With the zany promotional content for the record, this is the kind of critique and satire I expected from Arcade Fire, not pandering to clichés to explore a concept.
Coming out of this album I am not completely satisfied, but I am not completely disappointed. While the lyrics may not gel well with the overall concept, the instrumentation and performances are top notch . Each time I listen to this album I fall deeper in love with the dance music. Who knew that Arcade Fire could make me want to fill up the bathtub and put Funeral on and get out butt naked to dance around.
Listen to the album on Spotify:
Listen to the album on Apple Music: