THE GRADE A
BOTTOM LINE Delivering anti-consumerist messages through eclectic dance grooves
Arcade Fire’s fifth album, “Everything Now” (Everything Now / Columbia), is overstuffed with ideas and musical styles by design.
The overarching theme centers on consumerism and how the multitude of choices can be paralyzing. It all builds to the haunting ballad “We Don’t Deserve Love,” with Win Butler singing mostly at the top of his register over a woozy bed of distorted guitars that makes the song sound as post-apocalyptic as the lyrics suggest. “If you can’t see the forest for the trees just burn it all down,” sings Butler, after all the usual consumer-driven distractions don’t work. “And bring the ashes to me.”
It’s a heavy concept. But fear not, the beauty of “Everything Now” is that Arcade Fire creates the feeling of too many choices by offering an overwhelming number of great songs done in a dizzying number of good-time musical styles that can be enjoyed on their own.
The title track, an early song of the year contender, conjures the height of disco-era excess with its grand ABBA-esque piano intro that shields us from the despair of Butler’s lyrics punctuated by chants of “Everything now!” “Creature Comfort” uses a catchy, Groove Armada-styled industrial pop vibe to hide the suicidal thoughts that come from tying your self-esteem to other’s opinions.
But there are simpler pleasures here too, like Butler’s “Emotional Rescue”-era Rolling Stones delivery on “Good God Damn” or the dancehall-driven “Peter Pan,” complete with bass so high in the mix that its sounds like it is coming through blown-out speakers.
Arcade Fire, who produced the album with their longtime collaborator Markus Dravs, Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter and Pulp’s Steve Mackey, aren’t going for subtlety here. (They even include two versions of “Infinite Content” — one punk and one folkie — where they scream “Infinite content! Infinite content! We’re infinitely content!”) However, getting hit over the head with songs this good is perfectly fine.