For me waiting for a new Arcade Fire album almost feels like waiting for your lover, you haven’t seen for quite a while because you live in a long distance relationship: expectations are beyond so you can either be disappointed because things changed or your love will be reassured and become even deeper.
With “Everything Now”, the fifth Arcade Fire Album, the latter is definitely the case. I felt almost nervous waiting for the new Album and my fear was high, that they will fail to surprise me once again, although my trust in this band is very strong. The first songs “Everything Now”, “Creature Comfort”, “Signs Of Life” and “Electric Blue”, which have been released beforehand, already hint to a great diversity a some new directions in sound. Listening to those songs you get an idea of what to expect but still the idea of the album is not obvious.
How does it feel to listen to “Everything Now” for the very first time
Then the magic moment is there: I listen to “Everything Now” for the very first time. Here comes your lover. If you thought your expectations are so high that you hardly can be surprised anymore, this music tells you that you are wrong. I got simply swept off my feet. Bam!!!
I listened, I smiled, I felt happy. Yet another revelation. Not only that I become even more addicted, like a junky I have to listen to each song over and over again. Soak in every little detail. Like you feel and smell your lovers skin and want to touch it over and over again.
Although some of the songs might be a reminiscence to bands like ABBA (Everything Now) or Talking Heads (Creature Comfort) or even some Tom Tom Club tunes, this album is so typical Arcade Fire as Arcade Fire can be, although the band takes us on a rollercoaster of different styles, some we are maybe not used to.
This album really took me by surprise in many different ways. Not only that the already released singles appear way different in the context of the album, all the other, unheard songs are simply mind-blowing. Each one in a different way. Suddenly a totally different spin has been put on the songs in the context of the album. They all become part of a drama: the first half of the album, beginning with the first singles “Everything Now”, “Signs Of Life” and “Creature Comfort” are all upbeat songs with a frantic touch, that make you dance and move. What started with a bit of disco on “Reflektor” finds its logical continuation and is pushed even further on “Everything Now”.
“Peter Pan” is the song where I started to get totally hooked to the album. With a slight groove of reggae, a daring tune which makes you wonder where it comes from (maybe one of the magic knobs Will Butler passionately works on playing his keyboards) and the intriguing voice of Win Butler. He ensnares you and literally takes you to Peter Pans’ Neverland embellished with those Tinker Bell sounds. A place where no one ever wants to grow up. Neverland, the place where you just have to believe in something and it becomes true!
A Rollercoaster ride through different styles
Then comes “Chemistry”. Uh, what!? Reggae? Are you serious? What was already a hint of a sound on Peter Pan becomes reality. And hell yes, it’s good. What an irresistible groove. As unusual it might seem at first listen, as logic it gets when you have ever seen Win Butler DJ-ing as his alter Ego DJ Windows 98. He flawlessly spins his ways through different genres. Reggae is just one part of it. The band has shown their cultural influences a lot of times. Not only with Haitian music on “Reflektor”. But if this wouldn’t be enough of a surprise, the next one, “Infinite Content”, hits you with a punky tune which sounds like it came out of a studio jam session and leaves you speechless with an abrupt end. Just to start again with a steel guitar and a dash of country and western. Forgive me if this song provokes a picture of Arcade Fire riding with Cowboy hats through Death Valley, where they have crafted the artwork for their new record. Although quite a few fans might be bewildered or even distraught by those versions, they show more than others the concept of the new album. We live in a world of total consumption. We can have everything now, we are seduced by big enterprises who own half of the world, everything is content, content is infinite. Therefore, we can be sure that those two very crisp versions are just a teaser and the beginning of so much more infinite content to come. Consequently enough the band provided a link with the score of “Infinite Content” so everyone can make their own version. And guess what…. this will be infinite!
This album could not be more of a concept than this is. There is so much more to it beyond the music. Like Everything Now Corp. taking over Arcade Fires’ Social Media accounts because the band is not committed enough to promote themselves enough. Arcade Fire ruled by a big cooperation? Who knows! Irony? Who knows! Those who don’t get the irony behind it, start to question Arcade Fire. For others it’s just another proof point of the sheer creativity of the band unleashed. If you get it, it’s pretty entertaining. It reminds me a bit of David Bowie who was so much more creative beyond his music. Very confusing to a lot of people and only understood by many quite a few years later. But shouldn’t we buy into this a little bit more often as this creativity is mind opening, questioning and pushing the limits!?
Form dance tunes to emotional outburst
Back to the music: The drama of the record takes a turn with “Electric Blue” (the title and the anagram dedicated to it, could easily be interpreted as a dedication to beloved Bowie). Regine leads us to the far more emotional part of the second half of the album. Especially this song unfolds with a totally different notion in the context of the album. Have the lyrics from the songs before, with its criticism of nowadays world, stood in contrast to the happier melodies – all becomes very emotional from now on. It all gets a bit more longing, heartbroken with a hint of despair. Some would say the deepness -we are very familiar with from the older albums- is back. A lot of emotions which hit you deep somewhere you don’t expect. Best example: “Good God Damn” … damn is this song good. With the begging voice of Win we so much would like to believe that there is a good God. And Tim Kingsbury’s’ bass line seems to be heaven-sent. The end of this song is leading us right to my personal highlight “Put Your Money On Me”. How can music be so beautiful!? Everything about this song seems to be pure perfection: the intriguing melody, the lyrics about love, Regines’ voice supporting Wins. Addiction, here you are. I want to hear it over and over again. This song evokes deep emotions, wrapping me up in a magic cloud, sprinkled with love and other beautiful things.
The climax of the record is an emotional super MCA with “We Don’t Deserve Love”. Wins’ voice hits you deep (again), Regine caressing in the background. He invites you to drown in his voice until you forget to breath and just start to float through the music. Remember: the Lover! Simply beautiful. It has the same effect as “Supersymmetry” has at the end of “Reflektor”. Just let it tempt you….
With “Everything Now” (continued) its the start and the end. So once you are through with the album for the first time, this version sends you right back on the rollercoaster ride. Again and again. But that’s what love is: a never-ending rollercoaster ride!
After listening to this album everything that I heard afterwards on the radio seemed to be somehow trivial. This record is just another reassurance for my affection for this band.
I find it even more fascinating, how so many talented people can come together and do something so good. The band managed to bring even more talent to their own with the excellence production skills of Thomas Bangaltar of Daft Punk, Steve Mackey of Pulp, Geoff Barrow of Beak/Portishead and long-term friend and producer Markus Dravs. All cramped up in this little studio (picture). Ok, it was not only this studio. Bring as much super creative people together in a tiny space with a collection of every imaginable instrument and let them explode. When you look at this picture, this shows the passion and loveable nerdiness to their approach to music – the same passion and commitment when you see them play live. And that’s what makes them so different to many other bands.
And please, for those who are still lamenting that this album is not another “Funeral”: We all know that Arcade Fire are a band that always takes a chance on a lot of influences. A band who never stands still and constantly keeps inventing itself. Change is sometimes hard to accept but change is what brings us forward. Either you manage to be pushed out of your comfort zones by Arcade Fire or just listen to a band who does the same old, same old.
For the rest of us: Dear Arcade Fire, we give you everything now. Our heart. Our souls. Everything! Now! And thank you so much for giving us everything!
Photos: Guy Aroch, Win Butler (Instagram)