Everything Now (Sony)
This isn’t the disappointing album from Arcade Fire the naysayers have been warning about since their debut made them unlikely, rock gospellers to the indie scene.
That was Reflektor, 2013’s glammed and funked attempt to reposition them on album #4 from born again Springsteen to nouveau Bowie - or if you like, from Unforgettable Fire U2 to Achtung Baby U2.
It was partially successful: their appropriation of New Order, Talking Heads and LCD Soundsystem (whose main man James Murphy produced Reflektor) for some dancefloor moves that still carried a rock band’s footprint, had heft and some stiff-legged swing.
But apart from having no sense of humour or lightness, the album also left little impression due to underwhelming songs. For many it remains the least played Arcade Fire on the shelf, a warning that maybe those first two records, Funeral and Neon Bible, may have been their moment.
That warning must be heeded as Everything Now is not even good enough to be called ordinary. Let’s call it what it is, gold-suited rubbish.
An album which has a song as obnoxiously awful as Chemistry – cod-reggae rhythm treated with cheap-arse electronics, indifferent backing vocals behind a weak-kneed lead voice, and lyrics which are not dumb ironically but just dumb – would be dancing with the devil.
But that this record also has the poor man’s Abba-meets-Boz Scaggs title track (here in three iterations, the main one without the pop smarts of Abba or the light touch with groove of Scaggs; the first and last ones without energy), the dub-ish Peter Pan (which feels like a brass band fed through a modulator and extruded into a skin bag) and Electric Blue’s highly irritating high warble vocals and kids’ disco rhythm (sounding like a clueless Tom Tom Club) is a killer blow.
And that’s not even the end of the dire fare: I haven’t even mentioned the mid-70s Bowie imitation of Good God Damn. Don’t worry, I’ll spare you.
Actually, that song is a good example of how the Canadians have fallen for the oldest trick in the book: believing that because you like funk, disco and soul you can make it.
Everything Now has a big emphasis on groove but Arcade Fire so consistently miss the groove, like a dirty stylus on a warped record, that you begin to feel a little bit of sympathy for them by the time Put Your Money On Me arrives near the end of the album.
With a Kraftwerkian keyboard bassline and little bits of Chic guitar buried in the mix you can see they’re trying, see they know the reference points. However, it just isn’t good enough.
But then Everything Now just isn’t good enough. By a long shot.