I’m sitting at my perfectly functional eight year old MacBook Pro, flipping back and forth between writing this post and pricing out a new laptop, convincing myself that it’s best if I wait a few days lest a newer, shinier model is announced and I’ll be left with instant buyers remorse, of which I’m already suffering after learning that the Google Home speaker I bought on impulse a few months back is going to be trumped by Apple’s entry into the personal assistant speaker market. This one will recognize my face, not just my voice, and it’s supposed to sound a hundred-times better than all the others, so when I’m listening to Arcade Fire’s new song “Everything Now” on my shiny new Apple speaker, I’ll hear Win Butler wail “Every room in my house / is full of shit I couldn’t live without”clearer than ever before, and inevitably feel that gut punch of recognition more powerfully than I do right now.
I am a sucker for this band. Like Chris DeVille describes in this post, the mere whiff of rumour about a new Arcade Fire album had me salivating and craving it immediately. I’m beginning to think I’m predisposed to voraciously consuming anything they put out. I’ve binged on “Everything Now” (the song) for days and I’m consumed by the desire to hear Everything Now (the album) as soon as is heavenly possible.
While DeVille and I agree that Arcade Fire’s last album, Reflektor, left dyed in the wool fans like him and I wanting, I don’t subscribe to his assessment that “Everything Now” is devoid of the “grandiose genius” of their former glories. If anything, it gives me hope that Everything Now (the album) will make up for Reflektor’s shortcomings. The band is never going to escape the fact that their first record defined a musical zeitgeist in the first decade of this century, but Arcade Fire don’t owe us a Funeral every time they make a new record. It’s more than enough that they’re willing to go to the wall to make grand, majestic statements and risk falling hard if they don’t hit the mark. For every epic moment on Funeral and The Suburbs, there’s an equally forgettable equivalent on Reflektor and Neon Bible (because honestly now, when’s the last time you played that record back to front?).
Save for a couple of remarkable moments on Reflektor (“Afterlife” will always hold a special place in my heart), there’s been an Arcade Fire drought for over half a decade at this point. “Everything Now” suggests that the tonic fans’ need to quench their thirst is coming soon. It has much in common with “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” in that both songs simultaneously offer sharp social criticisms and a swelling catharsis fueled by rhythm and an unstoppable compulsion to move forward. Much has been written about that ABBA-inspired piano riff and pan flute solo, but the most surprising idiosyncrasy on “Everything Now” is how comfortable Arcade Fire sound settling into their new groove; gone is the awkward calypso-flavoured clumsiness that saddled “Here Comes the Night Time”. “Everything Now” powers along to a genuine ‘world beat’ blending elements of European pop, Latin rhythms, and North American rock.
Butler has hinted that Everything Now seamlessly transitions from one track to the next, offering listeners a complete musical vision from start to end. A return-to-form album, the kind you won’t be able to live without. I’ll try not to hold my breath, as I’ve been disappointed before, but with every spin of “Everything Now”, every inch of space in my heart is hoping I’m not wrong this time.