The fifth album from Arcade Fire opens with a brief plaintiff, maudlin, dejected repetitive lyrics that could possibly represent the ever so familiar repetitive humdrum and daily grind, the not so halcyon days of modern living. Indeed there’s an element throughout the album that seems to put contemporary life on trial, with ever stacking prosecutors evidence of culture and societal murder (‘Looking for signs of life’ Signs Of Life) scattered throughout the sonic crime scene album.
From that sedated initial malaise bursts forth the utterly euphoric life coach ABBAesque opiate and title track Everything Now, one of the best tracks of 2017. It pill drops the self medicating endorphins that make you leader leap out of bed and help you face/snort the lie line that is your life ‘cause every time you smile it’s a fake’.
Our lives are seemingly super saturated with content, we don’t need to think or develop, we are rented our dreams, and they are as tangible and meaningful as bottling mist for a living.
Husband and wife Win Butler/Régine Chassagne and the rest of the Arcade Fire family (Will Butler, Richard Reed Parry, Tim Kingsbury, Jeremy Gara) are effectively having an intervention in your life over the course of the 13 or so tracks that make up the album. The over riding theme is a an analysis of the vacuous nature of current times, but through the soundscape and beat patches of if not the colourful and aspiration filled 80s certainly an early issue of Now That’s What I Call Music compilation.
Not only is there vibes of ABBA, but also the Bee Gees (Electric Blue), Grace Jones (Peter Pan), Peter Gabriel (We Don’t Deserve Love), even No Doubt (Chemistry) and it works incredibly well. In fact, there could have been a potential tie in with John Carpenter’s 1988 movie ‘They Live’ where specially treated sunglasses enabled us to see the truth for the first time.
The content and words may seem a tad bleak but being that we’re all adults, we can take it, it’s sonically sugaring the pill of the conversation you don’t want to have, but is essential, and besides, it’s definitely coming from someone who loves you. It’s an age old tradition in pop songs to mask the pain/medication with catchy hooks and beats, making it far more tolerable/digestable, so it can work.
That medication can come in the form of actual drugs which seem to directly kick in half way through Infinite Content, where the initial attention screaming, short, sharp, shallow constant ‘posts’ of life are dulled into an anti depressant comforting melodic haze ‘Likes’ of country muzak, or indeed the music becomes part of your 5 (albums) A Day to get you to a much healthier place.
The consumerist and superficial sick life themes wonderfully continue through to the packaging where every song is given it’s own brand logo, to be dutifully consumed, collected and followed like everything else, everything but your own instinct. Even the lyric sheet is wonderfully designed to look like an ad page in a cheap catalogue, where as say the likes of Bon Iver’s 22, A Million dealt with other infections of modern life in an ambiguous, mysterious way utilising seemingly ancient cult-ish symbols, Arcade Fire are using the overt cult-ish nature and language of a Neo Liberal world, reassuringly helping you to buy into your own demise.
On initial listens there seemed to be a disconnect with a few of the songs, but the more I played the album and the louder I it was, it started to flow together in a very beautiful way. Certainly there are some incredible stand out tracks such as the aforementioned Everything Now, Creature Comforts, Electric Blue and the beautifully gentle and enveloping We Don’t Deserve Love, but team Arcade were already onto a winner when they had the likes of Geoff Barrow (Portishead), Markus Dravs and Eric Heigle helping with production, and not forgetting Daniel Lanois and Thomas Bangalter (Daft Punk) amongst many others investing their creative talents to the intervention.
Again the subjects and topics are dark, but that’s the best way to see the light, and when the soaring strings of Everything Now (Continued) close the album, the dawn of salvation is rising.
8/10 ‘Everything Now’ by Arcade Fire is out now.