To be succinct, I think Arcade Fire have been making fairly simplistic criticisms of consumerism and modernity since Neon Bible. But Everything Now is as soulless as the commercialism it tries to rally against. Although there may be the argument that the band are self-aware enough to be a part of that system, I ultimately don’t buy what they’re selling on this occasion.
I haven’t a problem with the slight turn of direction towards disco-inflected pop or the fine-tuning of the influence of reggae (as hit and miss and milky as it may be in some sections), but the resulting record is Arcade Fire’s worst release to date by such a large margin. On any other album of theirs they seemingly gave a shit, because this is the sound of a band who used to be an antidote to that disaffected fatigue and ennui. A band who roared with emotionally powerful anthems which were vigorous and cathartic. A band who brought the battle cry against the mundane and the indifferent. Instead, they’ve settled for merely contributing to such a culture with a smarmy, obnoxious and morbid chuckle which is thinly veiled underneath ‘fun’, ‘upbeat’, but ultimately lazy and generic tracks. I’m sure they’ll be able to incorporate and make some of these songs sound huge live, but as a recording band I sincerely hope they reflect over this grating misstep. Cynicism doesn’t suit this band in the slightest, it just comes off as ugly and insincere.
The critical bashing this album is receiving is not just because of the music, it’s also because of the massive tonal shift of the band. Pulling from my own music tastes, it would be like if Kanye West released an album where he starts talking about how much he hates his mother. Or if Pink Floyd came out with an album mocking people with mental illness.
I’m willing to tolerate a musical shift – even if it’s not well executed. But it’s hard to do so when the very character of the band changes as well.