Not many bands promote a forthcoming album by publishing a fake review which anticipates the critical reception they’ll receive.
Arcade Fire, however, have always been built on diosyncrasies and peculiarities, whether that be in their bizarre physical appearance during concerts or undertaking of multiple instruments. Here, with their assault on modern consumerism, namely by creating the fictional Everything Now Corporation (selling
‘Creature Comfort’ cereal and ice cream), they have returned with an album which is held back by their concept.
A continuation of the more electronic sound on their fourth album, 2013’s Reflektor, this new release finds the Montreal-based sextet fully embracing their dance and disco influences, eschewing the blend of indie and art rock that could be found on their first three albums. From the outset it’s markedly different, with the title track’s spritely keyboard hook being reminiscent of ABBA, resulting in one of the jovial songs in the band’s catalogue.
This influence is heard even more clearly on ‘Put Your Money On Me’, with a nice harmonic shift being an outlier in an album that is beset by poor lyrics and uninspiring vocal melodies. ‘Electric Blue’ plays like a lesser version of ‘Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)’, the penultimate track from the Grammy award-winning The Suburbs, with Regine Chassagne attempting a falsetto so high pitched it’s difficult to make out the lyrics. It spoils a song that features some of the more interesting instrumentals on the piece, with the wonky synths and crisp beat acting somewhat as a recovery point from a truly terrible middle section.
It’s hard to imagine there’ll be a worse song all year than ‘Chemistry’, an awful mix of ska- style trumpets and classic rock guitar strokes, with the lyrics “Dance with your boyfriend all night long/tell him you really really love his song” taking the track into unintentional parody territory. ‘Peter Pan’ also succumbs to this fate, Butler delivering the laughable lyrics “Be my Wendy, I’ll be your Peter Pan/Come on baby, take my hand” to an equally terrible composition, full of cheesy piano notes, fuzzy and irregular drum beats and irritating synth patterns.
‘Infinite Content’, a two-parter that features the repetition of the line “infinite content/infinite content/we’re infinitely content”, is the most forthright example of their satirical leanings, with the intentionally cringeworthy background music showing the band has knowingly made a bad song, but when it’s surrounded by unintentionally poor material, it makes you wonder if the song serves any purpose.
The replication of lyrics manifests itself more successfully on ‘Signs of Life’; “looking for signs of life/looking for signs every night/but there’s no signs of life/so we do it again”. This Talking Heads-sounding song, with its groovy bassline and funky horn section, could easily soundtrack a 1970s blaxploitation film, being a rare instance of the band fully embracing both the lyrical and musical playfulness of the genre.
Rather than standing out from a glut of bands that harken back to the past for new inspiration, the band’s use of hackneyed instrumentals and painfully trite lyrics has meant that Everything Now has succumbed to the very thing Arcade Fire were making a mockery out of – conformity.