On Friday, Arcade Fire released its fifth album, Everything Now. The album has garnered mixed reviews, though its Metacritic score of 69 is generally positive. I was among the critics who didn’t like the record. Here’s what I wrote last week:
Whether Arcade Fire is the midst of a meltdown or merely trolling, the image of the band that’s become fixed in the public is that of a former underground institution that now seems hopelessly out of touch. Arcade Fire has always flirted with (if not unapologetically embraced) pomposity in its music, but the Everything Now campaign betrays a new dispiriting arrogance that has verged on patronizing toward its audience. Unfortunately, this goes deeper than a few lame publicity stunts. This condescension exists at the very heart of the album.
Early singles fromEverything Now, including the title track and “Creature Comfort,” have been strangely sour jeremiads against modern culture that sub out Arcade Fire’s usual earnestness for pungent cynicism about vapid, gluttonous kids. While Arcade Fire’s early work addressed the band’s central obsessions — apathy, empty consumerism, spiritual bankruptcy — from a personal point of view, these songs feel suspiciously like “not us, but them“-style finger-pointing. In the band’s view, the girl in “Creature Comfort” who puts on Arcade Fire’s iconic 2004 debut record Funeral to stave off thoughts of suicide is no longer a person to whom the members can personally relate. Instead, she’s a silly millennial acting out for attention. The universality that Arcade Fire once stridently projected has given way to middle-aged alienation.
Was I too harsh? For the podcast, I solicited a second opinion from Jeremy Gordon from Spin and found… that he basically agreed with me. We both see Everything Now as one of Arcade Fire’s weaker albums, a surprisingly sour commentary on contemporary online culture from a band that is known for wide-eyed earnestness. In this episode, Jeremy and I do a post-mortem on one of the year’s most anticipated — and disappointing — rock albums and try to figure out where Arcade Fire went wrong.