By Jasper Price, Third Year Theatre and Performance
Arcade Fire fail to recreate the ground-breaking sounds of previous records with this inconsistent and unoriginal release. An album which pairs tired social commentary with generic musical interludes, WE is an ambitious yet disappointing output from the once darlings of Indie rock.
It’s been almost twenty years since the release of Arcade Fire’s seminal debut, ‘Funeral’. The album combined dark, emotional imagery with musical grandeur and changed the indie music scene for the better. Since then, the band have been on a rollercoaster of releases. The bleak but beautiful ‘Neon Bible’ dropped in 2007, followed by 2010’s epic ‘The Suburbs’. Arcade fire went from strength to strength, cementing themselves as a powerhouse of alternative music. Their next two albums; ‘Reflector’ and ‘Everything now’ divided opinion by long-time fans of the group, with the records straying away from the sound that the band had colonised in pursuit of more mainstream musical experiment. ‘Everything Now’ was especially ambitious, with the band exploring the themes of consumerism and materiality set to disco beats, with very few notable moments. Since Funeral, the band have seeming regressed in their pioneering and avant-garde ideas.
And so comes WE, an album which seemingly tries to recreate the band’s old sound, as well as trying to fulfil a demand for fresh ideas, all to no avail. The piece is split into movements as other albums have before it. However, rather than having a gripping and dynamic flow like Funeral had, no song seems to have any link to the one before it. All except The Lightning parts one and two, in which the band effectively return to a place they once dominated, especially with the second part of the movement. A grand, driving rock song which wouldn’t sound out of place on a War on Drugs record or Springsteen cut. However, this brief rest bite doesn’t quench the drought that is the rest of the record. The age of Anxiety parts one and two are perfectly inoffensive, but outstay their welcome almost from the beginning, with part two (Rabbit Hole) being particularly taxing.
The band then try to be social commentators on End of The Empire, a collection of songs that deal with the fall of capitalism, the American dream and modern politics. In short, the themes that every new release has included for the past two years. The phrase “virtue signalling” was heavy on my mind as I listened to these cuts, with the voice of Will Butler, the lead singer spouting “unsubscribe” for five minute straight. It’s safe to say I am not a fan of this album. It’s not all negatives though. As I’ve said before, the lighting parts one and two are a somewhat return to form for the band, however these songs only remind me what I am yearning for, and the movement is soon replaced by more generic sounds.
After the unimaginative disco number, Unconditional II, the record ends with the pretty title track WE, which is a pleasing and organic ending to the album. With these positives said though, I’m afraid I must return to the glaring fact that this is Arcade Fire’s most disappointing release. Dominated by overproduced and I’ll formed tracks, the only thing that WE has done for me is make me nostalgic for the Band’s early discography. I find myself howling for authentic Arcade Fire, and my call has not been answered in a very long time.
Featured image: Columbia
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