Indie rock pioneers Arcade Fire have already forged an incredible resume, with a series of four extraordinary and utterly original albums that have ensured their status as one of the world’s biggest bands today. Their unique brand of fist clenching, emotionally charged power ballads have been the basis for their ascent and universal critical acclaim since 2004, yet unthinkably, they seem to have forgotten their charm for the most part on Everything Now, their fifth record, and unfortunately their least impressive by a considerable margin.
Filled with a newfound cynicism and deep-rooted contempt for modern day society and the technological age, Win Butler and company find themselves churning out a series of surprisingly soulless tracks that come off as overwrought, underdeveloped and effortless in the worst sense imaginable.
The album kicks off brightly, as title track ‘Everything Now’ delivers a spectacular, unmistakably ABBA-esque lead single with a disco influenced throwback style that fuses perfectly with the band’s signature sound. The similarly funky ‘Signs of Life’ and ‘Creature Comfort’ keep the party going early on, but the track-list takes a very unfortunate nosedive from there.
A terribly miscalculated midsection offers up the ultra generic ‘Chemistry’ and monotonous centrepiece ‘Infinite Content’, which shoves its ham fisted message down listeners throats in the most obnoxious manner possible. It’s the undoubted low point of the album, as the band seems almost weighed down by their own lack of hope, a feeling that much of Arcade Fire’s back catalogue has been built on, in such inspirational tracks as ‘Wake Up’ and ‘Sprawl II’.
The latter stages of the album pick up the pieces with the anthemic ‘Put Your Money On Me’ and, particularly, ‘We Don’t Deserve Love’; a redemptive closer that hearkens back to a sweet, subtler sound that is sorely missing from the majority of the album. The band have worked it so that Everything Now forms a perfect loop and returns to its eponymous track for an outro, serving as a another sly nod toward the ‘infinite content’ sermon that the band seem so willing to push on fans. The truth is that this is the first record of Arcade Fire’s career that doesn’t prompt or necessitate repeat listens.
Ultimately, the band won’t suffer for it; the album will attract endless streaming and a massive world tour is assured thanks to the band’s well deserved name – the truth is that being Arcade Fire these days is akin to having a name as big as U2 or Green Day in music circles, and the band have earned a reputation as international icons. But after all is said and done, the reality is tough to swallow. For the first time, an Arcade Fire record represents a real step down in terms of quality, compared to any release taken from their back catalogue. Bogged down with an overly negative motif and a seeming lack of inspiration, Everything Now is a surefire misstep from a band that should be at the peak of their powers, and a return to former glory will require some serious soul searching.