In the run-up to the release of Arcade Fire’s new album, Everything Now, it’s easy to wonder if there’s a bit of the Mandela Effect going on. The group has been cleverly creating a series of fake news articles ranging from an expose linking the band to extremist groups to the announcement of the non-existent Rock Band: Arcade Fire video game to an incredible takedown of modern day music journalism with their “Stereoyum” parody. There are more than a half-dozen of these satirical stories out there, each mocking a separate corner of the internet and its denizens, each fooling another chunk of Facebook users looking for the next headline to inspire an uninformed rant.
So what is real, and what is imagined? Are any details in these articles true? (Unlikely.) Do Arcade Fire fidget spinners really exist? (At press time, no.) Was 2013’s Reflektor really that poorly received critically? (Metacritic respectfully disagrees.) Arcade Fire is making everyone question their motives, their music and their very existence. Pretty heady stuff for a promotional campaign.
Whether or not Everything Now lives up to that level of bizarre anti-hype remains to be seen, but on its own merits, the album is a fascinating look at the inherent danger of technological oversaturation and the detachment that comes with it. It’s no better explained than in the Saturday night/Sunday morning pairing of “Infinite Content” and “Infinite_Content.” Each hovers around 100 seconds; the former is a garage-punk stomper, the latter a lazy country shuffle, but both share the same lyrics: “Infinite content/We’re infinitely content/All your money is already spent on it.”
Musically, Everything Now finds Arcade Fire revisiting the dancier sounds of Reflektor through the prism of ’70s disco, both Swedish gloss (the title track) and New York City grime (“Signs Of Life”). “Chemistry” may be the most unexpected of the bunch, fusing a traditional Jamaican ska rhythm with a pop chorus that is spectacular in its simplicity: “You and me, we got chemistry/Baby, you and me.” The album truly hits its stride with “Creature Comfort,” a danceable number about suicide that enters some truly meta territory as Win Butler sings, “Assisted suicide/She dreams about dying all the time/She told me she came so close/Filled up the bathtub and put on our first record.” Some bands are told their music saves lives; Butler is told his music inspired someone to try and take it. What a mindfuck.
The feeling that we have everything at our fingertips and have no idea what to do with it all is the overarching narrative of Everything Now, as Butler elaborates in the title track: “Every room in my house is filled with shit I couldn’t live without… Every inch of space in my heart is filled with something I’ll never start.” The album completely revolves around the title track, too, as it opens with “Everything_Now (Continued)” and closes with “Everything Now (Continued),” slight variations on the same theme incorporating portions of lyrics from the title track. When the album is played on “repeat,” segue perfectly into one another, morphing Everything Now into a mobius strip of (you guessed it) infinite content. As brainwashing goes, it’s genius—and as a piece of art, Everything Now is not only worthwhile but rather brilliant.