Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire Music, 2023


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


For all of its charms, Reflektor wasn’t a road many Arcade Fire fans wanted the band to continue down, and when they did on Everything Now, the fans were not happy. Reviews were less than glowing for this once-lauded band, decrying how the band had gone disco, or pop, or had stopped paying attention to the lyrics. It was as if that Grammy win had given them license to do anything they wanted, and that freedom resulted in music that seemed to take the band in the wrong direction.

Fortunately, WE rights the ship, excising the sprawl and sheen and insularity of the previous two albums and getting back to what people liked about this band in the first place. At a solid 10 songs and 40 minutes, the album is split in half, with an “I” side and a “WE” side, the lyrics on the corresponding songs either about the personal outlook or the universal outlook.

The band retains its anthemic spirit here; it’s not a stretch to imagine parts of “End Of The Empire” or “Age Of Anxiety” being sung aloud at a concert, while “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)” is as good a song from a parent to a child as any in recent years. And if you have a problem with Win Butler and Regine Chassagne penning a song to their son, well, go pound sand. The band has grown up and so has its audience. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

There’s a strong Bowie influence here, particularly on the four-part “End Of The Empire” suite, where Butler boils down the anxiety of modern life and technology to a repeated “I unsubscribe” mantra. Chassagne takes point on the disco beat of “Unconditional II (Race And Religion),” all slippery synths and with background vocals from Peter Gabriel, continuing the band’s streak of attracting distinguished guest stars and probably the closest cousin to the sound on Everything Now, if that was your thing.

Not everything works; both parts of “Age Of Anxiety” take far too long to build up to their climaxes; the “Rabbit Hole” portion is particularly irritating, and while I didn’t think the title track was a suitable closer, certain older fans of the band will no doubt appreciate its approach.

The real winner, though, is the five-minute suite of “The Lightning,” by far the best music the band has made in a decade. Dynamics off an old Who album start off the piece, which slowly tromps along under Butler’s heroic declaration of “Please don’t quit on me / I won’t quit on you,” and an arena full of lighters and indie-rock lovers will no doubt shout these words to the band and each other. But then the second part of the song bursts open like a bomb, racing toward the sunrise with the top down and a promise for tomorrow, even if you don’t know what it will bring: “I was trying to run away / But a voice told me to stay / Put the feeling in a song / A day, a week, a month, a year / Every second brings me here / Waiting on the lightning.” I grant you that may not sound like high art, but the way Butler and his band phrase it while galloping toward the light, you feel it, man.

WE is a concept album of the classic kind, a return to form for this beloved band, and an ambitious small-scale indie rock outing that’s worth hearing, especially if you gave up on these guys over the last 10 years. They didn’t quit on you, so don’t quit on them.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2023 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Arcade Fire Music, and is used for informational purposes only.