Marketing has become increasingly intertwined with every new Arcade Fire release as the years have passed and the band’s profile has soared. It appeared to reach a crescendo with the Canadian six-piece’s fourth LP, 2013’s Reflektor, which was preceded by a guerrilla marketing campaign (or “a weird art project” as Win Butler called it) that included cryptic logos, graffiti and playing under the name “The Reflektors”.
However, the build-up to Reflektor pales in comparison to Everything Now. The promotion for Arcade Fire’s latest release has been on another level; stemming from a “360 degree agreement” with fictional company Everything Now Corp. The band’s self-acknowledged aggressive strategy has resulted in teasers galore, their own cereal, USB fidget spinners and promotional articles and advertisements for a series of fake products.
It’s been rather exhausting to keep up with – and that’s sort of the point. If the album’s title wasn’t clear enough, Everything Now is a commentary on the instant nature of modern consumerism. “There’s sort of an everything-nowness to life,” said Butler, ahead of its release. “I feel like almost every event and everything that happens surrounds you on all sides.” It is this immersive experience that dominates Arcade Fire’s fifth effort.
This feeling of being stuck in the endless loop of modern life is signalled most clearly by the disorientating, static-inflicted slow intro to the lead single, which is reprised for the album’s outro to seamlessly connect the cyclical record. “I’m in the black again, can’t make it back again,” bemoans Butler, before Everything Now’s joyful piano melody (yes, it’s more than a bit indebted to a certain Swedish pop group) kicks into gear.
The contrast between the lightness of the title track’s fun instrumentation and its darker message about technological alienation is played with throughout the record – although the results are more varied. Signs Of Life is one of the weaker singles Arcade Fire have ever released, with its effortless swagger getting bogged down by the heavy-handed lyrics and repetition as Butler discusses the futility of finding meaning in a meaningless world.
Creature Comfort is far more successful thanks to the underbelly of synthesizers and pounding drums that lay the foundation for its moving lyrics about the pressure to conform (“Some girls hate their bodies/ stand in the mirror and wait for the feedback”). The winning pre-chorus combination of Butler and Régine Chassagne is particularly powerful and goes to show what Arcade Fire can achieve when they get the formula right.
Unfortunately, Peter Pan is another misstep and throws the record off kilter, with its stodgy composition making it pretty intolerable, while the jaunty, reggae-inflected Chemistry struggles to rise above filler status. Both songs see the band take significant risks, but neither pays off and it says a lot that the throwaway, thrashing rock of Infinite Content comes as a brief respite from what has gone before.
Yet despite losing its way in the middle, Everything Now absolutely sticks the landing. Electric Blue is unquestionably the record’s standout track as Chassagne takes centre stage with a stunningly good falsetto that completely dominates the hypnotic disco anthem, while the seductive Good God Damn revels in its irresistibly funky bassline and Put You Money On Me is a pulsating slice of dream pop.
We Don’t Deserve Love closes the album with a beautifully dissonant and almost weary melody, which is entirely appropriate for both the song’s mournful tone and the overall Everything Now experience. Arcade Fire’s own satirical review of the record said it would be compared unfavourably to Funeral and The Suburbs… and sadly it’s true. When it’s good, it’s very, very good – but it’s also flawed. Such is the band’s conviction to capturing their reservations about our on-demand culture, it’s hard not to feel drained by the end.