Arcade Fire review: The band’s worst album to date

Everything Now
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Artist: Arcade Fire
Genre: Alternative
Label: Columbia

It behoves a band as good as Arcade Fire to take stock and jig things around a bit. Changes in style might disconcert the avid fanbase, but what’s the point of being a creative type if you can’t reimagine now and again? Right decision, wrong decision – whatever comes out in the wash is whatever comes out. Publish and be damned, and so on. Retrospective mistakes can always be rectified via live performances, of course, but once recorded they’re there forever.

And so it is that Everything Now is perhaps the patchiest, least effective album that Arcade Fire have so far released. From the irritating quasi-conceptual track listing (Everything Now, Everything Now Continued, Everything_Now Continued, Infinite Content, Infinite_Content) to misguided sidesteps such as Signs of Life (Win Butler raps and the world laughs), Electric Blue (a solid groove marred by squawking vocals from keyboardist Regine Chassagne) and Chemistry (graceless dancehall inflections spoiled by another Butler rap), Arcade Fire's fifth album, for the most part, hobbles along like a tennis player with a twisted ankle. That production duties are shared by longtime ally Markus Drave, Daft Punk's Thomas Bangalter and (more curiously) Pulp's Steve Mackey merely adds to the fractured nature of the album.

This being Arcade Fire, however, there are moments of perfection. The two Infinite Content tracks are chalk-and-cheese brilliant, the first head-kick punk rock, the second gentle folksiness. The title track is easily one of this year's best tunes, with hints of Abba and Talking Heads references, disco teases, piano-driven melody lines and strings to die for. Best of all, though, is official closing track We Don't Deserve Love, a fragile, woozy ballad that initially points to melancholy yet grasps rapture in its closing minutes.

It’s a salutary reminder of how terrific Arcade Fire can be, yet that mixture of solemnity and wide-eyed wonder is frustratingly scattered here.

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in popular culture