Can there be such a thing as a difficult fifth album? Is the old adage that states a sophomore album is “always difficult” just a load of nonsense? Surely all albums are difficult? The constant battle to stay fresh yet also please the fans who love that first album, or that nth album, never abates. So what’s a band to do? Arcade Fire consistently have the answer.
Never ones to follow the usual guidelines for making an album – debut album ‘Funeral’ has four songs with the same title – ‘Everything Now’ begins with a short reprise of the title track labelled Everything_Now that quickly leads in to the actual Everything Now (another lengthier reprise concludes the album), which, if you somehow haven’t heard it by now, is an Abba-esque all-out-dancing bonanza inspired in equal parts by the Scandinavian band’s Dancing Queen and Francis Bebey’s Coffee Cola Song.
Fellow pre-release singles Signs of Life and Creature Comfort follow. The former continues to display the band’s eagerness to wear their influences on their sleeves on this album as dollops of both New Order and Talking Heads are lathered across the four-and-a-half minute jam. The latter’s melody is as frenetic as its lyrics are fearless as Win Butler and co-lead Régine Chassagne lament the constant pressure on society to be something or look a certain way. “Some girls hate themselves, hide under the cover with sleeping pills/Some girls cut themselves, stand in the mirror and wait for the feedback.”
The somewhat forgettable Peter Pan is perhaps unfairly labelled as such due to it being sandwiched between two of the album’s strongest tracks in the aforementioned Creature Comfort and the funky Beatles-esque Chemistry. It’s a bass-heavy reggae-inspired tune whose chorus is possibly the closest ‘Everything Now’ comes to replicating the fist-in-the-air emotions of ‘Funeral’ or ‘The Suburbs’. However, such is the ability of Chemistry to get the listener on their feet and dancing, Peter Pan becomes a distant memory all too quickly.
Fourth single, and Chassagne’s traditional solo offering Electric Blue is a clear dedication to Bowie, drawing influence lyrically from the late hero’s Sound and Vision. However, much like Peter Pan, such is the quality of songs that follow, the song is destined to be one of the album’s most skipped.
The duo of Put Your Money On Me and We Don’t Deserve Love are what elevates ‘Everything Now’ from very good to excellent. Win Butler, in a recent interview, labelled the former as one of the best songs he has ever written, with its pulsating Stranger Things-esque beat and repetitive chorus lodging themselves in your brain.
We Don’t Deserve Love, however, is the album’s bright and shiny diamond. Its lyrics clever, its melody soothing and its subject matter downright captivating. “I’ve been hiding my scars in broad daylight bars/Behind laugh tracks on TV/If you can’t see the forest for the trees/Just burn it all down, and bring the ashes to me.” It’s a truly beautiful song that will bring a tear to many an eye once the album is released on July 28.
‘Everything Now’, with its themes of consumerism, greed and neglect plastered all over it, is probably Arcade Fire’s most ambitious effort to date. It’s as erratic as it is beautiful. But most importantly, it’s Arcade Fire doing what they want to do. Now on to difficult album number six.