The four pre-release videos give us a good preview of the new Arcade Fire album.
Arcade Fire performed one of the best concerts I saw last year the Saturday night before the band closed the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience on Sunday. The band played a warm-up show at a local soundstage, and the setlist included few that were a part of the band’s regular set. Instead, Arcade Fire focused on album cuts and served as a reminder of how deep its catalog is—a fact that gets by me at times because I don’t always respond to Win Butler’s earnestness on record.
It helped that the band was set up on the floor like a high school dance band, and freedom from the spectacle of the festival stage made the songs more immediate. The seriousness that stiffens songs for me on albums was loosened by the immediacy of the moment and the party vibe, and the absence of the scope that decontextualizes the band in its usual shows made it easier to hear whose albums are in the band members’ collections.
The show included at least five new songs, four of which made the cut on Everything Now, due out July 28. I can’t be sure that the songs didn’t undergo changes since that night, but the band played the title cut, “Signs of Life,” “Good God Damn,” “Infinite Content,” and maybe “Creature Comfort” (my notes have a song I identified as “Painless,” which is central to the song’s hook).
The band has released four videos from Everything Now, so we have a good feel for what the 13-track album is going to sound like. The dance rock vibe of Reflektor remains, and if anything, that sound is even more central with Thomas Bangalter from Daft Punk part of the production team, along with Blur’s Steve Mackey (who has produced M.I.A. and Florence + the Machine) and Marcus Dravs (who has worked on the last three Arcade Fire albums).
It will be interesting to see if the album continues the fascination with the uncanny that the pre-release content suggests. The title track articulates the false sense of security that comes from the information overload era we live in, and two of the videos take that thought to the next natural steps. Conspiracy theories and a Mulder-like belief that the truth is out there runs through “Everything Now” and “Signs of Life”—the latter, a riff on The X-Files. Even the EverythingNow.com website plays with the info glut idea, and when you click a link, the site immediately scatters eight virus-like windows across your desktop.
It’s easy to imagine that for much of America, the most uncanny video is “Electric Blue,” which features Régine Chassagne dancing as rake crews and Bobcats clean up after a Mardi Gras parade. It looks as unlikely as anything in the other videos and carries a stronger emotional undercurrent. The emotional connection Butler’s songs make rely on listeners identifying with the person in the songs and filling in the feels, but Chassagne’s “Electric Blue” lays out her emotions far more directly.
In other Arcade Fire news, Everything Now is the band’s first album for a label other than Merge, the indie rock label that has released everything up to date including the Grammy-winning The Suburbs. The album will be released on Columbia.
Also, the band mocked Kendall and Kylie Jenner’s controversial line of designer hip-hop-themed T-shirts by selling Arcade Fire T-shirts with Kendall’s face on them, with proceeds going to the non-profit group Partners in Health.
Arcade Fire plays the UNO Lakefront Arena September 26.