Arcade Fire’s ‘We’ Marks a Welcome Return to the Band’s Apocalyptic Good Cheer Trademark: Album Review
Although the threat of apocalypse has long hung over their discography, Arcade FireThe driving energy of has, however, always been found in songs that invite us to embrace the full-throated catharsis that comes from remembering that we are alive. While just over a decade ago Win Butler lamented the fantasized loss of San Francisco and sang to wrap it up, on Arcade Fire’s superb sixth album, it seems things have only come to a head. ‘to get worse. Now it’s all of California he imagines is lost, but despite the devastation, Butler admits it’s “not so bad” in the opening minutes of a dazzling new sequel called “End of the Empire I- IV”.
Whether you believe it or not is a strong indicator of what you will do with “We”. Serving as Arcade Fire’s first release in five years, the record eschews the ill-fitting cynicism of their latest effort and instead doubles down on the brand of earnest, rafter-shaking rock that will forever be its signature calling card.
For the married duo of Butler and Régine Chassagne, it’s a formula that has worked wonders since their band burst onto the scene with “Funeral” in 2004. This record kicked off a meteoric rise for Arcade. Fire, who quickly went from indie darlings to festival headliners to Grammy winners for album of the year.
Given that all of this took place over a six-year period, it’s understandable that the band (which also includes Richard Reed Parry, Tim Kingsbury, Jeremy Gara and, until last year, Win’s brother, Will Butler) then sought to explore a bit of new territory. From this pivot came the edgy, disco-infused styles of 2013’s “Reflektor” and the hyper-polished disdain of 2017’s “Everything Now.”
The latter was ultimately a bad look for a band that had first endeared themselves to fans thanks to their unapologetic sincerity. But with “We,” Arcade Fire has distilled the best of its past work into a remarkable new 40-minute opus of intimate depth and profound candor.
As it’s Arcade Fire’s shortest album to date, there’s a surprising amount of silence to their song this time around. Far from being muted, however, the breaths of calm that punctuate “We” testify to a maturation for the group. With producer Nigel Godrich providing the ride, the stripped-back approach does wonders for eliciting the campfire affections of “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)” and the ominous piano ballad of the opener “Age of Anxiety I.”
At best, however, “Us” is a post-apocalyptic love story infused with the urgency that only true lovers (and the threat of a veritable apocalypse or two) could provide.
Divided into two sides, the first (“I”) is riddled with anxieties born of technology, climate devastation and the terrible truth that everything must end. On “End of the Empire I-IV,” Butler seamlessly transitions from a John Lennon impression to a Queen-caliber anthem before the song is even halfway through. Then he sadly declares “I’m unsubscribing!” as a Pink Floyd-esque saxophone line gives way to the track’s climax.
It’s over nine minutes long, it features Butler shouting “Fuck season five,” and it’s just awesome. For those who weren’t impressed with Arcade Fire’s debut single, “The Lightning I, II”, listening to it as the paid coda to “End of the Empire I-IV” is the only good way to experience it. Indeed, “We” is best ingested not as an a la carte offering, but rather as a feast to be consumed in one delicious sitting.
On Side II (“We”), the perils of loneliness are replaced by the power of unity. If that sounds a bit Hallmark, Arcade Fire isn’t bothered. As Butler paused a performance of the aching heart “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)” during a recent surprise stop at Coachella, while this album’s sentiments won’t resonate with everyone, their authenticity is hard to pin down. to reject.
Plenty of special ingredients also abound on “We,” including contributions from longtime collaborators like Owen Pallett and Sarah Neufeld, plus appearances from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Father John Misty, Peter Gabriel, and even 9-year-olds. of Butler and Chassagne. eldest son, Eddie (credited with “whispers”).
But as the band’s rather low-key deployment for this album (a small series of shows in New York’s intimate Bowery Ballroom, a last-minute gig at Coachella) makes clear, the focus isn’t this time- ci on the bells and whistles or the outer bombshell, but simply on the music itself. That’s more than enough to keep going.
The best of variety