In a twist that fits perfectly with the message of the album, Arcade Fire’s newest offering “Everything Now” has received a mixed soup of reviews. Their brash marketing techniques and ideas of sickening consumerism have overwhelmed many – with Pitchfork calling it “an album about a once and possibly future great band trapped in its own feedback loop.” This kind of cutting critique is something I never expected to be hearing about Arcade Fire. To me and my clan, The Fire are and always have been giant figures in the world of political glam rock. If that even is a world to be giant figures in. Whatever world they’re part of – we knew them to be kings and queens of it.
They’re sound has morphed and evolved from Alternative to Indie Rock to Disco to Glam Rock. All through this journey, they have maintained the ability to make big statements about everything from growing up in a small town to living in a world dictated by constantly shifting technologies. The band’s tendency for grandiose attempts at tackling the big issues of the day is an understandable point of contention. It brings into question the role of music and the musicians behind it. At times it feels strange to be ‘lectured’ by those we buy music off. I’m sure there are those that tire of Father John Misty’s incessant philosophical jibes, as there were those that probably couldn’t stand John Lennon asking them to “imagine there’s no countries”. After all, I just want to dance. Quit making it all thinky and shit.
But there are others of us who think that music’s only purpose is not just to be aesthetically pleasing. It’s true that musicians aren’t just dumbos with drumsticks. In fact, through time musicians have come to be seen as poets, translating the world around them into a sound that their audience can feel reflects their own experience. But the question is, where is the line between artist and preacher? Do we really want to be judged through our stereos? Or do we want to be told that everything’s going to be OK, no matter which direction the world is going.
Some might say that “Everything Now” errs on the side of judgement. It’s themes are sensitive to anyone who consumes anything. And I admit at times I can see why people would look at Arcade Fire and think: “What do you know anyway? You’re just actors!” But to me, the album isn’t pretentious, it’s curious. Arcade Fire have never considered the concept of comfort zones. They’ve never hesitated to challenge their audience, to raise questions and to make their opinions known. This isn’t easy in today’s world, when so much music is nothing more than what it sounds like. And in a way, the band’s penchant for pop and disco troupes makes their grandeur interesting. Because ultimately, pop and disco were always there to get your feet tapping, not to get your mind reeling.
The sound of this album is as adventurous as its subject matters. In lieu of a genre, the album dishes out idea after idea, until it almost feels like they’re trying on every garment in the store without ever intending to buy anything. “Everything Now” sounds like a mashup of “On My Way” and any Abba song, with it’s pan flute tinkles and dramatic disco riffs. “Chemistry” is a strange foray into the reggae realm, with one of the most overdone and old school lyrical ideas in the book: “You and me, we got chemistry.” “Infinite Content” has a 90s garage-rock vibe, all distorted guitars and heavy drumming. It’s hard to keep track of the record’s sound. To me, this is a plus, because it offers a completely different listening experience. The sound again mirrors the message of the album as a whole. As the album’s title suggests, we are inundated with information at all times, with media coming at us from every direction. This might make us confused, unsure of what’s important and what can be thrown away. And yeah, this album might seem confusing, but the point is it’s beautiful in it’s madness, as Arcade Fire have always managed to be. As my wise brother says, “The album takes them in yet another direction of funk whilst retaining the loosely corralled chaos that we love them for.”
So from me, it’s a yes. Bring on the glitter and the garbling, because I want my disco tunes to make me think, not just make me dance.