The last time Arcade Fire was heard, they were electrifying. But when you play with electricity, you get shocked. Their latest album, Everything Now (2017), barely contains the defining characteristics of a classic Arcade Fire album, and instead feels like a burned out Refkletor (2014), their charged last release. The ostentatious, in-your-face melodies and repetitive lyrics challenge listeners to question their preconceptions of the band and their genre. Is it a disco-pop revival? An attempt at a Billboard Hot 100? Or a cry for help? Lyrics like “Assisted suicide / She dreams about dying all the time,” pair with hypnotic beats that cycle in a nauseating whirl; and if Arcade Fire wanted their listeners to feel trapped, they definitely made this obvious: the album even plays in an infinite loop. “Good God Damn,” asks “You wanna to get messed up?” and apparently, we do.
The same artistic minds that produced Funeral (2004) are now chanting “You and me we got / Chemistry,” as if the concoction of hard guitar riffs and stomping progression of drums wasn’t toxic enough. I sat through both “Infinite Content” and “Infinite_Content” wondering where the “Intervention” on this album would be. Ruminating through cheesy lyrics and exhausting tempos on the first half of the album, I couldn’t find songwriting, but I easily found the satire. By the end of “Everything Now” (“I want it!”) I was already very aware of Everything Now’s anti-consumerism, materialism, and any other greed-related-ism. No artist knows how to do a concept album quite like Arcade Fire, but I found the meta jab at society a clichéd bore. If it weren’t for the fake cereal boxes and faux-ad-pamphlet lyric book to keep things interesting, I would think Everything Now was just another Pure Comedy (2017) for this year. After a few listens and several more eye-rolls, however, I was able to find myself entranced in the sound. What came was a shocking enjoyment that was independent of complexity, lyrics, or substance.
Despite everything else, when I came towards “We Don’t Deserve Love,” I didn’t find myself unselecting the loop button. There’s something about Everything Now that’s alluring when you take the album for what it is: a sickeningly catchy array of lyrically sub-par songs carried by their melodic intensity. Arcade Fire tried to distance themselves from their past work, and maybe it didn’t produce their best album. However, works like The Suburbs (2010) don’t just apparate from midair, and the more they try to emulate their past masterpieces, the less likely they are to succeed. It’s not to say that their experimentation left the Canadian-originated band bereft of any reputable material, either. The “Everything Now” motif that connects the album in a never-ending circle is sonically mesmerizing, and the closing track “Put Your Money on Me” has me grooving like ABBA just dropped a new single. “We Don’t Deserve Love” is even a proper “just-in-case” ode to the traditional Arcade Fire, acting as a somber morning-after to an LP that feels like a dizzying night out. Objectively, I wouldn’t call Everything Now one of the best releases of the year, but personally, it has been one of my favorites.
As long as you don’t dwell on the absence of French lyrics and the entire Arcade Fire discography that came before, Everything Now can be a pleasant listen. Don’t look too much into the chord progression or chanting Win Butler and you may find yourself simply liking the songs instead of finding anything to take seriously, which may be the exact point.
Written by Delaney Gomen