In 2013, Reflektor cemented Arcade Fire as a band to watch. Headlining festivals around the world, their groovy-techno-logic sound, crossed with spacey love stories and anarchic idealism, heightened their already bubbling commercial success.
Four years later, with studio album number five rearing its head (titled Everything Now, due July 28th), two questions arise: has the popularity gotten to their heads? And have they already peaked?
Short answer: no and no.
Long answer: Dream big or go home. That’s the sentiment I was left with after my first listen. Not only have the Canadian Indie-Rock band expanded the sounds explored in Reflektor, but they have gone one, two and three steps further. Everything Now is an experiment of sorts. I can’t tell if it’s the band testing out how far they can evolve their sound, or how far they can stretch their fans. Either way, despite the lack of consistent flow, it works.
The title track, “Everything Now”, (which was released early as one of the several teasers) received mixed reviews. Co-produced by Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter and Pulp’s Steve Mackey, the buoyant disco-rock track drew many comparisons to ABBA; and rightfully so. The upbeat piano melody and swirling strings, layered with dreary vocals and sarcastic lyrics could easily be compared to “Dancing Queen”, only sadder and less disco-y.
The album opens with a continuance from this track, labelled, “Everything Now (Continued)”, acting as a kind of backwards intro. It reaffirms the contradicting sadness of the lyrics whilst bouncing of the fun sounding instrumentals.
“Signs of Life”, pulls slightly away from this with its erratic beats. It sets the scene for an existential crisis, and sees Win Butler stepping out of his comfort zone with serenading cries. Stuart Bogie appears on the track playing the saxophone, once again confirming my theory that the addition of a saxophone makes any song great.
“Creature Comfort”, gives a disco throw-back, with its glitchy techno guitar riffs and fuzzy synths, supported by Régine Chassagne’s high pitched backing vocals. The recurring rhythmic beats partnered with disillusionment, continue as the upbeat track is filled with sad chants about body image and suicide.
The album turns almost jazzy as it gets; “Peter Pan” drifting on a harsh digital percussion back beat. Bogie appears once again, this time with Preservation Hall Jazz Band member Charlie Gabriel, scattering the track the horns, whilst Butler murmurs promises of eternal youth. “Chemistry”, brings the mood back up with its bouncy dance-floor techno, and completely changes things again with the mid-song electric guitar riff.
“Infinite Content: Fast” and “Infinite Content: Slow”, sees the band once again experimenting with mash ups. “Infinite Content: Fast”, nudges the album in a more punk-rock direction, with its soaring dramatic vocals. “Infinite Content: Slow” completely changes things AGAIN and goes in a more country torpor direction, despite continuing on the lyrics and beat from the previous track.
“Electric Blue” has Chassagne taking the centre stage with her bustling falsetto, mimicking the 80’s, and “Good God Damn” echoes influences from Daft Punk with its groovy bass.
The album closes with yet another version of, “Everything Now (Continued)”, but this time altering the song with slow, dramatic instrumentals, stretching it out into a theatrical gloomy end.
Whether you’re a fan of Arcade Fire or not, you have to admire their ability to continuously reinvent their sound in a way that seems fresh and unique, despite clearly being influenced by sounds we’ve heard before. They can take a late 70’s or early 80’s beat, give it a modern twist, and make it sound futuristic. As I said in the beginning, being five albums in, they could have crashed and burned. But instead, they’re only just finding their stride.
Review Score: 7.5 out of 10.
Everything Now is released on July 28th.