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Everything Now
Arcade Fire Everything Now
Released 28 July 2017

Arcade Fire, Thomas Bangater, Geoff Barrow, Markus Dravs, Eric Heigle, Steve Mackey
Label Columbia
Length 47:11
Genre Dance, rock
Website www.arcadefire.com

Arcade Fire is a band you could easily turn in a by-the-numbers review on just by talking about the situations that brought the album together, as highlighted in their light hearted “Premature Premature Evaluation” posted here. And it’s true, you could fill paragraphs just talking about their impact to date, their decision to go disco or to include one half of Daft Punk on production without ever really getting to the heart of the matter; is the album actually any good. Well the answer for Everything Now is that yes it is good, but it’s going to divide opinion.

First things first, this album is a lot more accessible than Reflektor or The Suburbs, whose long running times made it feel like a slog to get properly acquainted with initially. Clocking in at a much more palatable 47 minutes and existing in a much more straightforward disco genre makes the album feel familiar from the off. The album opens with 'Everything_Now (continued)' a brief prelude that runs directly into the similarly titled 'Everything Now', with its infectiously upbeat piano line and themes focusing on the binge consumption of media and products to help give our life meaning with the inference being that it’s false and can’t replace real things like absent family members.

This is followed by 'Signs of Life' which kicks off with funky horns over a drum and bass groove augmented with hand claps continuing the understated disco feel. Win Butler raps his way through the verses, calling to mind Debbie Harry’s rapping on 'Rapture', in that it’s pretty crap. Perhaps he’s going for authentic disco era rapping but it’s cringe inducing.

'Creature Comfort' is where the album really starts to crystalize. The themes of excess and consumerism now develop into those of insecurity, pressure to conform and eventually suicide. Butler sings of a fan telling him how she came close to suicide, planning to take her own life in the bath while listening to Funeral. She doesn’t go through with it this time but later on the lyrics suggest she eventually does – "It’s not painless / She was a friend of mine". This whole scene is revisited later in the album with 'Good God Damn' taken from the girl’s perspective, filling the bath and putting on her favourite album as she stands on the precipice thinking about saying goodbye to her friends. It’s a chilling scene set to a smooth bass line and almost whispered vocals.

Death is present again in 'Peter Pan', though this time as something worth avoiding due to love, fantasising that they might run away together like Peter and Wendy and never grow old or die providing a balance to the more depressing themes on the album. 'Electric Blue' seems to be a nod to Bowie, the title taken from the line in 'Sound and Vision', an appropriate choice given its themes of isolation and depression. The song opens with "Summer’s gone and so are you" surely a direct reference to Bowie who was a big supporter of the band and who contributed vocals on Reflektor.

'Chemistry' is one of the weaker songs on Everything Now, it’s fine as part of the general flow of the album but never felt like a track worth revisiting on its own. 'Infinite Content' and 'Infinite_Content' provide two variations on the same theme; the former is a punk rock take while the latter adopts a southern rock approach with a sudden switch from one to the next. Again I don’t know if they have much individual replay value but sit fine within the context of the whole album.

The album comes to a rather subdued but effective end; the aforementioned 'Good God Damn' is followed by 'Put Your Money on Me' and 'We Don’t Deserve Love', two brooding tracks with perfectly chosen synth lines. It strikes you that the album clearly has Thomas Bangalter’s touch but never in an in your face way. Don’t expect the blaring horns of 'One More Time' or the furious guitar of 'Aerodynamic' but more the downbeat moments on Discovery like 'Nightvision' or 'Something About Us' which fits the content and the band much better than trying to make them into a goofy 'Get Lucky' type pop band.

'Everything Now (continued) (2)' brings the album to a close but leads straight back into the start of the album again, much in the same way The Wall does and I was happy enough to go back to the start to experience it again multiple times. There are missteps for sure and could well be viewed as Arcade Fire’s weakest album but that speaks more of the high bar they have set themselves over the course of their career. It’s still a strong album with enough in its best tracks to make up for the shortcomings of its weaker moment.

- Brian Kinsella