Combining such classic themes as unrequited love with a bold critique of contemporary society, the latest release by Arcade Fire gives us more than a bit to chew on. Everything Now, released on 28 July, is the fifth studio album from the Canadian indie-rock outfit. It features production by Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter, Pulp’s Steve Mackey, Portishead’s Geoff Barrow and previous collaborator Markus Dravs.
With song titles such as “Put Your Money On Me” and “Infinite Content”, the album’s intended criticism of our consumerist, mass media society is plain for all to see. Opening mid-song with a 46-second intro, the album jars listeners, makes their ears prick up. With a heavy smattering of instruments and a layering of talking voices, this track is hectic. Here is a band with something to say.
Rolling straight into the next track on the record, “Everything Now”, the album demonstrates its disdain for hesitation. Released as a single in May of this year, this track comments on the expectation of immediacy that is fostered by mass media: “Every song that I’ve ever heard is playing at the same time – it’s absurd”.
Although delivering a less than hopeful message, “Everything Now” is unmistakably uplifting. On hearing the playful, ABBA-like piano riff it is impossible not to tap your foot.
“Signs Of Life”, opens with the staggered entry characteristic of many Arcade Fire numbers. First come the sirens, closely followed by the percussion and strings, and then comes the hand clapping. The song plays like the thoughts of a street-corner observer, he who bears witness to the daily desperation of our image-obsessed society.
The album reaches its most somber on track 4, “Creature Comfort”. Another victorious-sounding song that delivers a less-than-victorious message, this tracks deals with such tricky issues as body image, self-loathing and suicide. It claims that the constant bombardment of other people’s opinions puts us at risk losing our sense of self: “On and on, I don’t know what I want“.
Following the unease of “Creature Comfort”, “Peter Pan” brings us back to more familiar ground. A simple love song, “Peter Pan” is the first of two songs that offer an interlude to the album’s constant social critique. Unfortunately, both “Peter Pan” and “Chemistry” are a bit lackluster, and I found myself wishing the album would regain some of its previous momentum.
I did not have to wait long, for track 7, “Infinite Content” is fast-paced and in your face, reflecting the barrage of opinion that is constantly thrown at us by modern media: “Infinite content, infinite content, we’re infinitely content”. Although bearing the near-exact same title, the next track “Infinite_Content” offers a lilting antidote to its evil twin. This song is kind to its listeners and gives them time to reflect.
“Electric Blue”, is perhaps the song least in keeping with the rest of the album. Similar to “Peter Pan” and “Chemistry”, it might be accused of not really going anywhere. Yet, the song achieves an interesting sound, with the ethereal female voices lending it an otherworldly vibe.
On the tenth track of the album, “Good God Damn”, the album reaches its most macabre. With whispering vocals, Win Butler tells a haunting tale of suicide: “You want to get messed up? When the times get rough, put your favorite record on, baby, and fill the bathtub up”.
For “Put Your Money On Me”, the two main themes of the album are rolled into one, as the lyrics present love as worthy of nothing more than a cheap bet. The song closes with rippling chimes reminiscent of the sound made by a slot machine.
At 6 minutes 29 seconds, the penultimate track on the album, “We Don’t Deserve Love”, is the longest track on the album. And a good thing too. With a Bowie influence impossible to miss, this insightful piece is perhaps the album’s greatest victory. Combining strings and synthesizer, the track is an exciting classical-electronic infusion.
The album concludes with another section of “Everything Now”, linking the end of the album seamlessly back to its beginning. A pleasing denouement to an album that covers impressive ground in just over 47 minutes. Out now on Sony Music, purchase Arcade Fire’s Everything Now on iTunes here.