Arcade Fire is my favorite band of all time. My devotion to this Montréal-based Indie rock group stems from a deep appreciation for their instrumental complexity, as well as a fascination with their ability to evolve dramatically. Naturally, my expectations for their fifth studio album, “Everything Now,” were sky-high. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.
Though imperfect, “Everything Now” is not a terrible album, and the negative reviews found on Pitchfork, Consequence of Sound, and SPIN are exaggerated. As a concept album which aims to criticize the excessive consumerism and craving for immediate gratification which plagues the 21st century, “Everything Now” is overwhelmingly successful. Whether it be Win Butler’s sarcastic lyrics hidden behind a joyous piano melody on the title track, or the heart wrenching themes of suicide broached in “Creature Comfort” and “Good God Damn,” “Everything Now“ achieves consistency and precision in its its social critique.
Despite its thematic successes, “Everything Now” does falter in terms of song quality, particularly when compared to the rest of Arcade Fire’s discography. The middle of the album, from “Peter Pan” through the second rendition of “Infinite Content,” is conspicuously lacking in the lyrical prose and instrumental complexity that fans have come to expect from a band rooted in grand gestures and sweeping statements. “Chemistry” fails to achieve the desired synthesis of rock and reggae, which results in a disjointed and irritating sound and may be the toughest of the Arcade Fire songs to bear in its history. The aforementioned pair of “Infinite Content” tracks underscore the critique of consumerism through the refrain “Infinite Content/Infinite Content/We’re infinitely content,” but they simply aren’t enjoyable to hear. The first rendition manifests in a screeching punk sound with an unimpressive guitar-riff while the second meanders along without any reward, unsuccessfully trying to channel the country genre.
Though the middle portion of Everything Now is heartbreakingly disappointing, the opening and closing tracks nearly make up for it. The title track represents a successful manifestation of the grandeur that Arcade Fire so fervently seeks. The star of this disco-esque song is the pan-flute heard in the last quarter of the track; a surprising inclusion which demonstrates the aforementioned instrumental complexity for which Arcade Fire is renowned.
Though the gravity of the lyrics make it difficult to stomach, “Creature Comfort” is another successful track that couples a raucous beat with bold vocal performances from Win Butler and Régine Chassagne. My personal favorite of the album, “Put Your Money on Me,” has an undeniable groove that is only enhanced by the poetic lyrics, which include references to Ambien and Chloroform, yet still manage to get stuck in your head.
The sprawling closing track, “We Don’t Deserve Love,” is perhaps the most impressive song on the album; the background synthesizer creates a unique and profoundly affecting sound that is only strengthened by Win Butler’s pleading vocals. In addition, the album loops perfectly from start to finish, and the transitions between songs, even when shuffled, are all seamless.
Though I am disappointed with Everything Now as a whole, there are still several excellent songs on the album, many of which I listen to on a regular basis. The failure of “Everything Now” to contend for the status of Arcade Fire’s best album should not preclude anyone from listening to it or singing its praises.