Their most focused record since “The Suburbs”

As a premonition of 2022, Orwell’s 1984 no longer cuts it – too much joy, optimism and permissiveness. Arcade Fire, alt rock documenters of societal decay since 2001, instead named their most ingenious treatise yet about the collapse of western civilisation following a 1924 Russian novel. We. Yevgeny Zamyatin’s pioneering vision depicts a totalitarian dystopia in which numbered, uniformed citizens of the One State live in glass apartments for ease of surveillance, have all daily activities strictly planned for them and are allotted partners, interests and jobs by the algorithms of the Bureau Of Guardians.

I unsubscribe,” Win Butler sings midway Arcade Fire’s sixth album; “somebody delete me”He begs for something else. However, taken as a whole ‘WE’This is not about clicking off the current malaise, but rather fighting it.

If 2017’s fifth album ‘Everything Now’ came in for flack – unfairly, to these ears – over its righteous but blunt-edged anti-corporate satire and synth-pop leaning, this one has far more prescient material to work with. Butler and his co. confront online insecurities and isolation as well as war, right-wing uprising, and American democracy. They have four songs to choose from plus the title track. Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich lays the atmospherics on dense and thick, but Arcade Fire’s natural dynamic wins through, merging glowering alt-rock and sci-fi disco pop with the measured intricacy of a vaccine lab. It finds them right back where they belong – up on a soapbox, thumping their chests and promising to lead us out of the storm.

It appears to begin mid-panic attack. Synthetic dizzy spells, short breaths and muted beats like atrial palpitations swarm around Win’s tense piano ballad ‘Age Of Anxiety I’This is an echo of the pandemic era, which succinctly captures the world of uncertainties and fears outside our doors as well as the web of lies within. “Fight the fever with TV in the age when nobody sleeps,”Before we get to the lure of lockdown addict (“the pills do nothing for me in the age of anxiety”), the numbing emptiness of the past two years and the online charade we were forced to indulge. “When I look at you, I see what you want me to,” he sings of the internet’s deceptive “maze of mirrors”.

The track begins to release its introspective self and becomes a party-oriented EDM scene that leads into a slow-building, glacial rave sister-piece. ‘Age Of Anxiety II’, it still can’t shake the stresses of the world and its combustible politics. “Wake up sleepy head,” Win declares, “Acropolis is burning”.

The album’s boldest statement comes in the form of nine-minute centrepiece ‘End Of The Empire I-IV’Part I (A lamentation for America in Dying) and Part II (An anthem in the truest sense of the term. Part I (‘Last Dance’) is what Neil Young’s ‘Imagine’This might have been what it sounded like: A limpid piano song wherein a winsome Win gazes across the patch ocean. “where California used to be”Decides and makes the final call “it’s not half bad… standing at the end of the American empire”. Part II: The strings are strutted before a fanfare by guitar ushers‘Last Round’), a stirring glam-rock battle hymn of a chorus that, by the sounds of it, they’ll be playing when Iggy Pop finally gets inaugurated.

Part III is a full orchestra that swells.‘Leave The Light On’() zooms in on the little man with “one life and half of it’s gone”He was drinking, toking and surviving the fall of civilisation. Part IV is his story.‘Sagittarius A*’He is soaked in jazz club vibes, piano, and saxophone music. Tired of the “algorithm prescribed”You have fantasies about fast cars and fancy clothes, and you want to be there. “heroes…selling you underwear and little white pills”, he decides “this ain’t no way of life”You can unsubscribe from it all with a relief “fuck season five”. The message, if just one can be pulled from this tangled tragedy, is that life’s too short and the world’s too fucked for us to get cookied all the way to oblivion.

You can find more information here ‘WE’Finds a way to get through the darkness. ‘The Lightning I, II’It turns out that the ‘80s synths to ‘Boys Of Summer’The pace at which it is done ‘Born To Run’When Butler hears the thunder of distant conflict, he tells a friend: “We can make it if you don’t quit on me / I won’t quit on you”. The unusually breezy folk jig ‘Unconditional (Lookout Kid)’Their breakout hit is now their ideological flip ‘Wake Up’, encouraging our children to embrace life’s ups and downs: “A lifetime of skinned knees and heartbreak comes so easy / But a life without pain would be boring”. ‘Unconditional II (Race & Religion)’For the moment, however, I advocate total emotional immersion to drown out all the noise. “I’ll be your race and religion…united body and soul,” Régine Chassagne coos over Fleetwood Mac synths, flurries of bongo and backing wails from the mighty Peter Gabriel.

All anxiety, doubt, and oppression have vanished when Butler hears the subdued acoustic title song. Butler is now so in love with his life that he wants it all back. “wild”And “free”You can sell everything and get another ride on this mortal rollercoaster. “when everything ends, can we do it again?”Arcade Fire describes the global journey of fear to appreciation as “a journey from terror to appreciation.” “concise 40-minute epic”. Philosophically, they haven’t been so focussed since 2010’s ‘The Suburbs’, nor so musically dramatic since 2007’s ‘Neon Bible’. Subscribe.


Date of release: May 6

Record label Columbia Records


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