Arcade Fire has come back with the lead single off their newest studio album, Everything Now (the single sharing the same name). The Canadian indie rock band hasn’t released a studio album in four years and alternative music enthusiasts have been itching for their new music. I’ve never been much of an Arcade Fire fan (which will probably become apparent as this review continues) but became pleasantly intrigued about the new record when I discovered Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk and Pulp bassist, Steve Mackey, would be co-producing their newest album.
I’ve listened to “Everything Now” a few times since it came out last week and I find that I always think I’m going to like it better with each consecutive listen but it just doesn’t happen. It initially sounds like a late 1970s pop song (think ABBA)–which isn’t necessarily a bad thing–before transitioning into quirky sounds and a vocal delivery that reminds me most readily of the late David Bowie. Take a combination of those iconic artists and throw some Arcade Fire into the mix and you’d think you’d be listening to something nostalgic and fun. Nope. Instead, Arcade Fire comes across as a bad cover band, attempting (and failing) to emulate the great indie pop/electronic/rock acts of the 1970s and 1980s. The whole thing sounds hackneyed and dated in a bad way.
Musically, I am lukewarm about the verses. I don’t necessarily dislike them but I wouldn’t recommend them either. With every listen, I give them a chance because, with a good chorus, they may make musical sense in the overall soundscape despite their sometimes questionable arrangement. However, the hook of “Everything Now” is disappointing and annoying. The combination of gimmicky pipe flute played over top a simplistic arrangement of drums and guitars and an attempt to hold it all together with the weird almost-gospel-but-not-quite-chanting of “everything now” is off-putting. None of the sounds ever seem to come to any sort of musical compromise and instead of committing to one cohesive idea, Arcade Fire tries to include much more than they can handle sonically. It’s as if each artist that worked on “Everything Now” had a different idea of what they wanted the song to be and instead of collaborating and compromising they all just kept adding their own ideas to the track and what we, the listeners, are left with, is a smorgasbord of sound that makes little sense once combined, a wall of competing musical ideas that not only sounds unbalanced but even at odds with itself.
Lyrically too the song has little to offer. At a more technical level, the rhyming structure is simplistic: “Every inch of road’s got a sign / And every boy uses the same line” or “Every song that I’ve ever heard / Is playing at the same time, it’s absurd”. It’s incredibly uninspired and preachy. Thematically, the lyrics are a societal callout of our immediate gratification brand of consumerism. Butler begs us to rethink how and why we want objects but the whole thing comes off as dated and tone deaf. Consumerism has its problems, ok. But they way it is approached by Arcade Fire is lacking in nuance and seems like a misinterpreted sarcasm. Of all the problems affecting us now, consumerism is the most pressing? And not even macro-level stuff like liberal capitalist structures or the slave labor that fuels the system? No? It’s all because I want the newest iPhone even though my old one works just fine? Gross. Disgusting. Like an argument I heard 15 years ago that has now been debated so many times that “stop wanting stuff so much” seems dated and ignorant of the reality of the world that we live in today. Excuse me while I go listen to DAMN. 15 more times in order to cleanse myself of frustrated fury.
Sidenote: I actually don’t mind the music video…