In 2011, Arcade Fire released an album called The Suburbs that spoke to the world in a prophetic and profound way, winning hearts and awards around the world. Their follow-up album Reflektor received critical acclaim but audiences didn’t feel it surpassed The Suburbs in quality. Arcade Fire must now face the intense scrutiny from listeners who will again compare their newest album Everything Now to The Suburbs, hoping it will be as good.
Everything Now most likely will not have as profound an impact as The Suburbs did, but that does not mean it is a bad or disappointing album. Arcade Fire still offers important critiques of our current relationship with technology as well as the difficulty of having meaningful human relationships, painting an unhappy picture for the future if we don’t change. The band intentionally highlights several larger spiritual questions as well.
The song “Creature Comfort” looks at the prevalence of deep unhappiness and our desire to mask this with creature comforts—objects we hope will make us happy—or simply give up. Several tracks later, the song with the offensive title and lyrics “Good God Damn” continues on this theme, using those words in an intriguing chorus. The song starts with despair but begins to question whether “Maybe there is a good God, damn” and ends with “Maybe there is a good God/If He made you.” Out of despair, seeds of hope grow.
Songs like “Chemistry,” “Peter Pan,” and “We Don’t Deserve Love” look at broken romantic relationships, asking how we can survive if we can’t even cultivate meaningful human connection. The narrator in “We Don’t Deserve Love” bleakly observes a woman who is in a relationship with a man that she’s placed in the position of a savior. Eventually, the narrator can’t take it any longer; in the final verse, he implores the woman to see her savior-like partner as a con who will inevitably leave her broken-hearted and alone, alluding to the grief that Mary must have felt at the cross. The narrator leaves the story unresolved, declining to reveal where the woman should find her salvation, just pointing out that seeking to find it from another human being will fail.
Arcade Fire continues their use of eclectic instruments and sounds on Everything Now. The title track masterfully includes dissonant violins, upbeat piano, and the pan-flute to create the most catchy and energetic song of the album. Disco is a heavy influence on several other tracks, including “Signs of Life,” a song that has an incredible balance of soundscapes, interesting musical flourishes, energy, and darkness.
The members of Arcade Fire do not publically claim to be Christ-followers, and though Everything Now is sonically very interesting, I’d hesitate to recommend this to readers as an easy listen or as background music. I don’t think this does justice to the high level of artistic creativity that the band has invested in the album, and harmful misunderstandings could occur if care isn’t taken to dig deeper. I do think that if listeners are willing to take a careful and humble approach, the themes presented can provoke helpful reflection for Christians seeking to better understand this fallen world and our place in it. (Columbia)