By Cole Altmayer, copy editor
I have to come clean: I’ve had a torrid love affair with not caring at all about Arcade Fire ever since their debut album “Funeral” was released.
Granted, I was five years old at that point, and I’m not sure five year olds have the capacity to care about anything at all. But the point still stands: Arcade Fire is really overrated. I’ve always had trouble understanding how they were the de facto icons of indie rock for so long. They feel more like Bruce Springsteen than Neutral Milk Hotel, and more like John “Cougar” Mellencamp than American Football. That’s not inherently a bad thing, but they always felt more like a roots-rock band wearing a convincing indie hipster disguise.
However, their days on the coveted indie throne are probably long past them by now. Their last album, “Reflektor,” was their first notable stumble, and this most recent album, “Everything Now,” has been their second.
They seem to have fully dumped their whole soft rock vibe from their early days and embraced the disco aspect of “Reflektor” that made that particular album the uneven mess that it was.
“Everything Now” is punchy, it’s cutesy, and it’s danceable. I’ll give them that. None of that makes up for the fact that “Everything Now” feels more like a Duran Duran cover band’s foray into writing “serious music” than, you know, an indie rock album. In layman’s terms, this album feels very amateur for a band that’s been a household name for thirteen years.
Ruining Arcade Fire’s streaks of solid opening tracks is our first song, “Everything_Now (continued),” which is more like an extended intro for the title track rather than a proper opener. The lyrics and melody are later reused in the closing track with a very similar name, “Everything Now (continued),” but they’re not interesting enough to really warrant the existence of either of these tracks.
“Everything Now” itself is one of the better tracks of the album, with a jubilant piano melody and rhythm section driving the dance-rock atmosphere without resorting to the synthesized instrumentation that carries the rest of the album. There’s even heavy use of woodwinds and a string section, making this feel more like a classic Arcade Fire track than the rest. It’s my personal favorite track on the album, despite my lukewarm feelings towards their older work.
Lukewarm doesn’t begin to describe most of the other music we’re given on “Everything Now”: the rest of the tracks range from forgettable to ire-inducing.
“Signs of Life” is more on the forgettable side, but has goofy hip-hop flavored vocal delivery that definitely doesn’t play to Win Butler’s abilities as a vocalist.
The track “Creature Comfort” is also passable, but the lyrics border on daytime soap opera levels of melodrama. Social commentary in music is fine, but not when delivered with the subtlety of a jackhammer launched from a cannon. It’s a song ostensibly about depression and self-harm, but the lyrics smack with a sense of self-righteousness and self-indulgence from the band, especially with a line about “putting on our first record” during a suicide attempt.
Any complaints about “Creature Comfort,” however, are easily set aside when the next track, “Peter Pan,” revs up. Oh boy, does it rev up: between the farty monotonous synths and the childish lyrics, it’s humbling to think that this is the same band that wrote such a mature album like “The Suburbs.” Tracks like the grating “Electric Blue,” the brainless pseudo-punk anthem “Infinite Content,” and its superfluous reprise “Infinite_Content” make this revelation even more harrowing.
The strangest thing about “Everything Now” is its bizarre sense of duality. Never have I heard an album that was both extremely half-baked and extremely over-indulgent. It’s preachy, but it’s also sleazy. It’s a dance album that wants to make you think, but all I thought about during “Everything Now” were the other albums I could be listening to.
Favorite Tracks: Everything Now, Good God Damn
Least Favorite Tracks: Peter Pan, Electric Blue, Chemistry, Infinite Content, Infinite_Content