Arcade Fire Embraces Pop on New AlbumArcade Fire, Photo: Guy Aroch
In the music world, it becomes harder and harder for some bands to grow and still stay relevant. As a guy who never really found the world of Arcade Fire as endearing as everyone else seemed to, I couldn’t escape the fact that the Canadian formed six piece was always willing to try new things while moving more ahead than many bands who get caught in a rut. Indie rock is meant, in my opinion, to stay independent and not become a mainstream major label moniker used to move units. So when Arcade Fire’s previous release, Reflektor, felt like the band trying to breach beyond the indie rock genre, I wasn’t surprised when they left Merge for Columbia Records to release their dance-heavy new album, Everything Now. Keep in mind, the Arcade Fire that you loved so dearly on albums Funeral and The Suburbs has gone the way of the buffalo in favor for a more mainstream sound — and you should be okay with that. On the album, the band takes leaps towards a dance rock band that’s more pop than rock, but they do so in the catchiest way possible.
Opening with the silhouette sounds of “Everything Now (continued)” before launching into the second song, the band sets the stage for a pop-fueled joy ride that’s hard not to lend an ear to. Full of trip hop beats and an ghostly vocal, there’s a definite disconnect between what they’re doing here and what they’ve done in the past. When that second track, “Everything Now,” comes in, it’s obvious that the band is stretching their creative legs. With an opening that almost mirrors the disco-laden sounds of Swedish pop supergroup ABBA, Win Butler boldly leaps onto the track with his signature soft-spoken voice. There’s a definite groove to the track that makes it obvious that there’s a reason this song was a lead single for the album. The catchiness of the multiple instrumentation that the band always brought in the past finds its way onto the track like a symphony of dance pop. They keep things funky on “Signs of Life” with nods to Motown with some heavy handed bassline and brass section, while still keeping those disco vibes strong with a group vocal that sticks with you. When the driving electronica sounds of “Creature Comfort” come in, you should have started to give up on what the band once was and embrace what they’ve become. The guitar hook here is strong and keeps your head bopping before the vocals drop, while the electronic synths and backing vocals let you know that the band will be headlining larger scale venues sooner than later. Sounding closer to the work of Grimes than the work of what you’re expecting, there’s a high production value that’s happening here that shouldn’t get lost on anyone who hears it.
The band goes a little more experimental on “Peter Pan,” while still keeping the pop affection strong, before heading into the Beatles-inspired sounds of “Chemistry.” Sounding like something off of Yellow Submarine, the band doesn’t deter from their newfound mainstream ideals. The song is funky and different while still remaining as fetching as those previously found on the album. The dark and in some ways punky sound of “Infinite Content” comes on like a hurricane before the band follows it up with “Infinite_Content,” that’s essentially the exact opposite sound. Like a country ballad from another era, these two songs coming back to back offer up a tongue-in-cheek sound to essentially a record that’s pure pop, which is where you find the following track, “Electric Blue.” Like that of the works of early Daft Punk mixed with The Chemical Brothers, the song sounds like something that’ll get remixed sooner than later with catchy pedal heavy dance guitar grooves and a beat that you want to hear more of. The use of falsetto vocals is almost a deterrent here, but the song ends before it drives you nuts.
The band goes a little slower on “Good God Damn,” almost channeling the disco years of Roxy Music, alongside other rock bands that made disco albums. However, they pick the pace back up on “Put Your Money On Me,” complete with an opening that sounds like it was lifted from the opening of the radio show Coast To Coast AM. That’s not to say that the track isn’t worth listening to, but that’s immediately what I thought of upon hearing it. They close the album out two songs later with another reprise track on “Everything Now (continued).” Soft and somber with dissonant and spacey sounds, it’s the fitting end to an album from a band embarking on new territories and sounds, and it brings the listener full circle in what the band is trying to do.
While I’ve read plenty of comments and reviews on how the band isn’t as solid as they were in the past, I found this album to be pretty solid overall. It’s a pop record plain and simple. Keeping that in mind, while I was never a fan, it’s better to see a band grow and expand their sound rather than make the same album over and over again. You can stream Everything Now on all of the usual platforms, or purchase it directly from the band here. So far, the closest the band will be coming to Houston will be Wednesday September 27 at Frank Erwin Center. The all-ages show has an opening set from Wolf Parade with doors at 7:30 and tickets between $26 and $75.