19 August 2017

Arcade Fire - Everything Now

Some people are being really precious about this one...... Arcade Fire are a band that need no introduction, but maybe a recent history lesson is in order.  It has been four years since the released the acclaimed Reflektor (our review linked here), an album which was popular with fans and critics alike.  It is a good album, but not one that I would go out of my way to listen to if I am honest.  However, at the start of the year Arcade Fire started a viral campaign which gave false clues about this album, strange twitter messages, even a false upload for the popular game Rock Band.  But once the album was released, the reaction was a mixture of bemusement, anger, amazement and a bucket load of confusion.  The review on the other blog I write for Bearded Gentlemen Music by the brilliant Pariah Jones (link to the review here) is a work of art, it make me cry with laughter in places.  It has been great to sit on the side-lines and watch it unfold to be honest, it is like Games of Thrones for music nerds (I class myself as a music nerd, before you start to complain – you cannot own as much Frank Zappa material as I do and not be one).  But now it is time for me to jump in to the debate, albeit a month or so late.  Now before I start, I have to point this out – this is one of the dreaded multi-produced album, something that usually means that an album is unfocused and below par.  The band are producers as well, they are also working with Geff Barrow from Portishead, members of Pulp and Daft Punk, as well as previous producer Markus Dravs.  That is a lot of head-honchos for one album, it sounds like it could be a cluster fuck....so how it?

01 – Everything_Now (Cont.)

This is a strange intro, it basically loops into the final track and encloses the album in a loop.  But I do not think it is the true beginning of the album, I will get to that in my summary.  So, for now – skip to the next track.

02 – Everything Now

With a dash of Talking Heads and a slab of Disco, the first track proper on the album was the first song to be released as a single.  A song about the modern age & how we consume everything, it is one that is meant to make you think and to help you strut your stuff.  It does achieve this, but it has taken a detour to their sound which is neither a good thing or a bad thing.  It is a good little number with a catchy chant that sticks in your head, for all the negative reviews of the song it is not as bad as other people are making out.

03 – Signs of Life

Adding more bass and electronica to the mix, “Signs of Life” is a song that reminds me of Blonde “Rapture” with more Talking Heads tones as well.  It is another song which is ok, but the difference in sound to “Everything Now” is sort of jarring to these ears and sounds forced.  

04 – Creature Comfort

This song is probably my favourite of the album, the lyrics about the desperation of fame, the music sounding like an anthemic festival tune in waiting and it sounds massive!  This is the version of Arcade Fire I like the best, when they sound natural and just being themselves – I wish they would do it more often than they have done on this record and not trying to please everyone, but more on that later.

05 – Peter Pan

Ok, I was not expecting what can only be described as a minimalist Talking Head song, one that does not gain traction either.  It feels like it is trying to be jungle, but it is missing the massive beats as they have been replaced by a street reggae horn section.  It is the first song on the album where I can see what the critics are getting out, basically it is shit.

06 – Chemistry

This is another song which is light on notes, music, hooks and appealable value to be honest, it just sorts of drifts alone and then it has a sub-rock guitar chorus which clashes with the previous sound.  Again, not my thing and I will leave it at that.

07 – Infinite Content

Now, this is how to make a difference on the album.  It is a short, sharp explosion of sound and it is over in a flash!  For me, it harks back to their earlier days as there is not fancy production job on it, it is a basic and hits the spot for me…... 

08 – Infinite_Content

…...Then you have the flip side of the song, a country & western/lounge version of the same tune.  It is so dull, so very, very, very, very, very, very, very dull.  It takes all the fun of the first version and shits on it from a great height.  But this is where I think the album starts, it finishes with “Infinite Content” as the album makes more sense that way.  But this is still a shit song, no doubt about that.

09 – Electric Blue

On “Electric Blue”, the band go full Daft Punk with a song that could have been out of any of their album, it is song of the album which has the most production work (four credits) and it is probably the smoothest of the second/first half of the record.  It is a daydream for the disco, a gentle opening to an evening which has promise.  For my own hatred of the multi-produced album/song, I do like this one a lot and I can see why it was released as a single – it is one of the few which has cross-over appeal and it sound luscious. 

10 – Good God Damn

Now they want to be a soul band, in a strange sort of way.  It is heavy on the bass, but light on everything else.  It seems as if each song is focusing on one thing and then moving on the next.  Now, I like this song as well, it feels polished and so tight.  Again, when Arcade Fire are on point, they are great.  It is a shame that this is a rare beast on this record.

11 – Put Your Money on Me

I think that this song can be used the best example of diminishing returns I have ever heard, because each time I listen to it that initial impact moves further away from me.  The first time I listened to it, I really enjoyed it.  But with each further listen, the beige nature of the song grows and the excitement wanes.  But, once more it is better than some of the other songs on this album.

12 – We Don’t Deserve Love

They have gone down the slow route once more, crafting more minimalism pop/indie that sounds like a hymn for the voided generation.  It is the opposite of “Put Your Money on Me” as it improves with repeated listens, it grows in stature and the money gains more soul. It is this sort of song which saves this album to a certain extent, it makes the band sound interesting.

13 – Everything Now (Continued)

The third part of “Everything Now” follows closely to “We Don’t Deserve Love” in tone, but adds the motif sounds of “Everything Now” and links straight into the opening that is “Everything_Now” to form an infinity loop.  On its own, it does not make sense, but when you link it all together with the start of the album, it adds to the record and comes together with the sort of progressive vision I admire from the Arcade Fire. 

Never has a band wanted to be ABBA, Reggae, Disco & Talking Heads, but not hitting any of their intended mark!  That is not a combination I would have ever thought of….  Now I think the best way to listen to this album is not from track 1 to the end.  It flows so much better if you listen to it from the second version of "Infinite_Content". Somehow, it flows better from that moment and makes for a smoother record.  But that is a crazy way to listen to an album, so let us sum up in the traditional sense.

I can sort of see why their fan base is pissed off, but I think that they also need to realise that the band are trying something different here as well.  Everything Now has been created to be the album that splits their audience and to drive them onto something new and it almost works.  The problem that it has is not really a surprise to me, it is the uneven production job that comes from a multi-produced album.  Whilst Arcade Fire oversee everything, they oversee nothing.  You have too many people trying to put their own stamp on this album and it takes what could have been a great album and turns it into a decent one with a little bit of dead weight.  They are trying to be the "everything to everyone" band, that one stop fix which is truly impossible and they have created a thankless task for themselves.  By trying to please everyone, they have pleased no-one.  There is no-one really leading this album, certainly not the band and it hurts the songs at the end of the day.  I applaud them for having the guts to follow their hearts and release it, it takes a lot of effort to create a record.  However, someone should have tried to guide them with a firmer hand.  But with that all said, I do not think it is a bad as people have made it out to be, but I have never been over precious with this band (I also hate The Suburbs, so what would I know).  It is slap bang in the middle of my marking system, average as hell and in need of one vision.  The mark is mainly for the bravery that the band have shown here, but it loses marks for the execution.  I hope that next time that they get a single producer to work with them, to help them reign in those ambitions and focus on one goal, not on multiple targets as it does not make for a great experience.
5 out of ten – Not for everyone, but played well.

Top track – Creature Comfort

You can purchase Everything Now on Amazon here.

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