When Arcade Fire first appeared on the scene almost 15 years ago, they came toting accordions and hurdy-gurdys – today, they come with keytars. They’ve always experimented with instrumentation, sure, but it’s a sign of just how far these Montreal misfits have come in just five albums.
2013’s Reflektor hinted at a more danceable, funkier Arcade Fire sound. Their fifth album Everything Now, however, streamlines those influences, cuts down the runtimes from the band’s last two albums, and makes the groups’ music snappier and fully arena-ready.
Most of the time it works: the title track is a happier sibling of The Suburbs’ Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), eerily reminiscent of Abba, while Signs Of Life channels the hip-hop-new-wave mash-up of Blondie’s Rapture, before strings and horns swamp the synths. Creature Comfort, a pulsing, electro-rock juggernaut co-produced by Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter, feels like the kind of darkly anthemic song that Depeche Mode did so well in the early ’90s.
The track Infinite Content appears twice – once as frenzied garage-punk and again as chilled country-rock. When the the group’s experiments work, Everything Now is undeniably impressive. While Reflektor was influenced by Haitian rhythms, on Chemistry Arcade Fire successfully incorporate ska into their sound; the final song (aside from a reprise of the title track), meanwhile, We Don’t Deserve Love, is a synth ballad as mighty and melancholic as any of their previous peaks.
Ultimately, Everything Now might not quite match up to Funeral or The Suburbs, but it’s still an enthralling piece of work – simultaneously commercial and subversive.