Arcade Fire are one of the biggest and most impactful rock bands to emerge out of the last decade and half. Their first album Funeral is a classic. Their third album The Suburbs is even better. Hell, I will gladly die on the Reflektor hill, dancing the night away in glittery, seven-inch platform shoes. They are without question one of the greatest live performing entities in the world today. That being said, it’s probably fair at this point to declare their most recent album Everything Now a major misstep. It’s not just the quality of the music either — though “Peter Pan” is far and aways the worst song they’ve ever committed to tape — the entire rollout campaign that the band deployed to trumpet their latest work revealed a group totally out of touch with both its fan base and the world at large.
It’s one thing to create a bad record. Great artists do that all the time. See Bob Dylan’s Christmas In The Heart or Neil Young’s Trans for exquisite examples. It’s an entirely different story to put your fans through a ham-fisted pre-release cycle that zaps them of enthusiasm for your latest artistic expression, and turns them into beleaguered defenders. Katy Perry fans know this pain all too well this year. As do Rihanna fans — Anti was great, but what the hell was the deal with all those digital rooms? Even Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo became grating after weeks and weeks and weeks of Twitter rants, fashion shows, leaks, and edits.
Arcade Fire managed to set a new bar with Everything Now. The central theme of their new record is all about content, content, content, and the corporate masters who keep us occupied and entertained at a minute-by-minute level. That’s a pretty fertile idea to draw from and not a bad conversation to inspire. It’s in the execution however, where Arcade Fire went off the rails.
The whole thing kicked off in May when a Twitter account that resembled a Russian spambot tweeted out an excerpt from the lead-off single and title track “Everything Now.”
It only got more perplexing from there. They announced the entire tracklist through anagram titles like “Rectum Roofer Cat” and “Electric Lube.” Then came the $109 figdet spinners. Piggybacking off a brouhaha between Kendall and Kylie Jenner and the estate of Biggie Smalls, they sold their own t-shirts with their new logo emblazoned over the socialites faces. They eventually got Stephen Colbert into the action, having the Late Show host’s Twitter account “leak” a series of obviously phony demands made by the band.
The most face palm-inducing moment came when the band shared a “Premature Premature Evaluation” of their new album before it had been released onto their fake website in response to a piece titled “Remember When Arcade Fire Were Good” written by Chris Deville. As a music writer myself, I inherently know that anything I say about Arcade Fire’s attempt at satire will come off as seemingly a reflexive defensive of my profession, but there’s something extremely lame about one of the biggest bands on Earth, who have just signed up to a major label, punching down so far to take a shot at a blog that had frankly been mostly supportive of them in the past.