Somewhere along the way, Arcade Fire fundamentally changed. Gone are the days when they performed with Neil Young, played acoustic sets on the street after their concerts, called upon the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to close out their Coachella set, cited Springsteen, Dylan, and Elvis as influences, and accessorized their sound with hurdy-gurdys, mandolins, and accordions. The Arcade Fire of today are glammier, dancier, no longer ramshackle heart-on-the-sleevers from up north-- their idols are Bowie and Depeche Mode, and their svengalis are LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter.
If you had to pinpoint an epicenter of the shockwaves we’re still experiencing, it’s The Suburbs’ “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains),” the first time the group locked into a groove that resembled, more than anything else, disco. Post-Reflektor, that genre seems to be Arcade Fire 2.0’s modus operandi, especially when it comes to “Everything Now,” the lead single from their just-announced fifth album.
The breezy lush track was produced by Bangalter, whose key contributions are probably mostly responsible for all of the “Dancing Queen” comparisons the song has gotten. Even in the wake of Reflektor, the pan flutes, gang vocals, and ABBA-esque characteristics of “Everything Now” come as a shock-- after all, no amount of papier-mâché heads, synthesizers, or dance beats could ever erase the fact that Arcade Fire used to be synonymous with “indie rock” in the genre’s mid-2000s heyday. But here we are in 2017, and Arcade Fire are making polyester pantsuit jams cool again.
The overarching theme of “Everything Now” and its accompanying video seems to be information overload, entertainment obsession, and/or a debate about unlimited access to both of the above. It’s a subject that Radiohead already covered deftly-- if open-endedly-- on Kid A highlight “Idioteque” (sample lyric: “Here I'm allowed/Everything all of the time”), but if anything, its significance has grown exponentially since that song’s 2000 release.
If any band is qualified for an album-length exploration of the ins and outs of 21st Century data and culture bombardment, it’s Arcade Fire, who broke out as a gang of French Canadian oddballs just as the record industry was collapsing, and have emerged on the other side as unscathed straight-shooters. Ideally, Everything Now (also the name of the forthcoming album) will see the band sharing all they’ve learned in a decade and a half of being churned about in an industry that’s unsure of itself but too big to fail.
We’ll find out on July 28th.