Monday 20 January 2020

Keep the car running for Arcade Fire

Playing the 3Arena in April, Canadian faith healers Arcade Fire keep hurtling down the new wave electro highway

Win Butler of Arcade Fire performs at Glastonbury
Win Butler of Arcade Fire performs at Glastonbury
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

To some they were heyday New Order meets Talking Heads and The Clash. To others, Canadian faith healers Arcade Fire were better than a good novel - written by Thom Yorke or Bono. (U2 used to play Arcade Fire's Wake Up before they went onstage to the crowd in 2007.)

The Daily Telegraph once noted that Win Butler, mercurial frontman of the Montreal septet (although onstage, the band expands into sometimes innumerable musicians), was gaining an ironic inspiration from the sense of dread that comes with "living in today's decaying, centreless, post-9/11 North American cities".

That same sense of dread, or at least the ennui, is still in evidence on Everything Now, the group's fifth studio album.

It goes even further into the realm of 1970s and 1980s electro disco and dancey new wave than 2013's Reflektor with James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem guiding them towards the groove.

Everything Now barrels even faster along that road and as such not everyone will like it.

Listening to it, it is sometimes hard to imagine that Everything Now is made by the same group of complex individuals that made Neon Bible, the best album of 2007.

Keep The Car Running, with lines like "Every night my dream's the same. Same old city with a different name. Men are coming to take me away. I don't know why, but I know I can't stay", was mesmerising to listen to.

Listening to Everything Now, it is even difficult to process that these are the same people who made 2010's The Suburbs (which one critic suggested, not inaccurately, was as the title suggests, "about those grey zones between the city and the countryside".)

To polarize - if not discard - the fans who have adored them too unquestioningly is perhaps, or perhaps not, what Arcade Fire want to achieve with their new album.

It is all very good, too. I suggest you stick with it. Even when you don't think you want to.

Maybe Win and his wife, Regine Chassagne, and his brother William, and the rest of the band have programmed in some secret subliminals. I love the scope of the sound.

Win, all six feet four of him, is big on ambition, and a certain post-modern disco sound. Signs Of Life has a bit - specifically the rap bit - of Blondie's Rapture about it, as well as The Temptations' Papa Was a Rolling Stone. Put Your Money on Me has echoes of bitter Swede Symphony Money, Money, Money by Abba, while Good God Damn nods slightly towards Miss You from The Rolling Stones' disco album Some Girls.

With Thomas Bangalter from Daft Punk and Pulp's Steve Mackey behind the production console with the band, nobody should be unduly surprised.

The six-minute-long We Don't Deserve Love has Win telling someone that "You don't want to talk, you don't want to touch/ You don't even want to watch TV".

He sings like Ian McCulloch of Echo & the Bunnymen auditioning for The E Street Band.

Peter Pan seems to be about death or dying.

Signs Of Life is about being bored.

No one was remotely bored - quite the opposite - at the band's recent triumphant show at Malahide Castle, nor at the secret after-show gig in Whelan's.

Happily they are returning to these shores to play Dublin's 3Arena on April 6 next year.

Keep the car running.

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