Welcome to a special Weekly Fiver, focusing entirely on Arcade Fire‘s new album Everything Now. It’s a decent release, but not the stellar effort we’re used to from the typically fastidious collective. There’s a lot of style over substance; Win Butler and company lean heavily on their meticulous recreation of 1970s records and as a result there are far fewer immediately memorable songs than on their previous works. It’s not a particularly melodic affair, though the cohesive atmosphere does at least show some sense of direction. The following are five picks of varying quality from the album:
Excellent: Put Your Money On Me
Nowhere on the record does the sound of New York new wave and disco feature more prominently than on this track. Ghosts of Television, The Talking Heads, and Blondie float all over “Put Your Money On Me”, a slow burner that gradually adds interlocking layers until it hits the 4:45 mark and everything becomes fully realized. The synths, the guitar, the disco string stabs all work in unison and pull off a harmonic final chorus.
Pretty Good: Peter Pan
Like the titular character, “Peter Pan” is light on its feet. A nimble indie pop gem, it glides on a combination of delicate piano chords and glissando strings (note: there are a lot of glissando strings on this album). The lyrics are strangely simple for Arcade Fire (“Be my Wendy/ I’ll be your Peter Pan/ come on baby/ just take my hand”) but the whole thing gets stuck in your head very easily and after the title track it’s the most instantly catchy song on the album.
Reggae and glam rock make for strange bedfellows, considering the genres came from ideologically opposite ends of the spectrum. “Chemistry”‘s beefy glam rock riffs fit well enough over the ska trumpets and strutting rhythm, but they lack any sort of grit. Arcade Fire have proved they can rock out with the best of them; Reflektor’s “Normal Person”, and The Suburbs’ “Month of May”, interlude are raucous winners. Why couldn’t this track be cranked up to 11 as well?
Not that some better amps would necessarily salvage the song. Win’s bravado rings strangely hollow, and even verges on awkward at a few points. Of course, that could be the intention behind the track’s narrative all along. This is definitely a track that needed a verse from Regine to clarify the point. If the “chemistry” Win sings about is as potent as he thinks this track is, then he’s read the signals all wrong.
Below Average: We Don’t Deserve Love
A slow, drab track that takes six-and-a-half minutes to travel very little. Warped chords and slide guitar drift alongside a laconic beat that eventually bloom into a fuller arrangement. It almost works, but lacks the grandeur needed to really do what it attempts to.
Not that they’re all that bad. They’re just blatant filler dressed up to appear like integral parts of the record. Arcade Fire have never shied away from capital A capital R capital T ART before, but this gimmick falls flat. The two “Infinite Content” tracks in the middle can’t be more different; the first is a messy punk rocker, the second a folksy strummer. Yet they’re equally boring and don’t really serve any sort of purpose, whether musical or conceptual. Win just sings the name of the song over and over again. The chopped up “Everything Now (continued)” track that bookends the album to create a loop isn’t much of a tune either, and that trick has definitely been done before (Brand New‘s The Devil and God, anyone?)
It’s evident padding and reminiscent of the many, many inessential mini-tracks on M83‘s Hurry Up We’re Dreaming (I’m still mad about “Train to Pluton”). That album was a double feature though- if we take away the interludes on Everything Now we’re left with only nine real tracks totaling just over 40 minutes….kind of anti-climactic for an album that claims to be “infinite content”.