Written Before Listen
Arcade Fire is back after a small 3-year break. One of the most important indie rock groups of the 2000s and early 2010s has returned with an album called “WE”. Personally, Funeral and The Suburbs are two albums that I hold in high regard as they are some of the best examples of nostalgic indie rock music. The Neighborhood trilogy alone is a masterpiece honestly and songs like “Rebellion”, “The Sprawl II” and “Wake Up” are also crash courses on making indie classics. With that being said, I haven’t been the fondest of their more recent work, but I'm here no matter what, without further ado, let’s get into it.
Arcade Fire has always shown their influences on their sleeve. Whether it's the rustic sounds that they took from Springsteen on “The Suburbs”, the emotional delivery they get from artists like The Cure and U2, or the overall indie sound from artists like the Pixies, they are never shy of their influences and sometimes it works for their benefit. With songs like “The Lightning Part I” and “The Lightning Part II”, they take those Springsteen influences and do what they usually do with them. There is also “Unconditional II” where Arcade Fire takes a lot of cues from New Order and The Knife. On the other hand, we have “End Of the Empire I-IV” and the entire thing is a Bowie song without any Bowie-ness to it. The piano, acoustic guitars, and chord progression all scream Bowie but it’s not done with justice in any way. Other than that, there weren’t any instances of taking influences that caught me in any way, but those were the things I wanted to mention.
One thing I will give this album is that nearly every song is different. “Age Of Anxiety” starts as a classic rock track with its acoustic guitar and anthemic vocals, but then it goes into this synth dance track that ends up being the longest on the album. The song “End Of An Empire” is a track I already mentioned being derivative of Bowie. “The Lightning” is their heartland piece that takes a lot from Springsteen, and “Unconditional” is first half a folk ballad and the second half a synth throwback with Peter Gabriel. It’s kind of like a lesser version of “The Sprawl” which ended up on ‘The Suburbs’. As you can see, they tend to genre-bend. The problem comes in with the fact that they’ve already tried out these sounds. It’s nothing new, so the point of doing all of these styles is to show that they are still Arcade Fire. I think that's a problem that lies with me for this album.
Arcade Fire try hard to make an album that's over-ambitious and anthemic, and they do that on here, but once again, I think Arcade Fire doesn’t do anything new on this project. This time around, there is a lot of talk about the pandemic and all of that, which I guess was expected knowing Arcade Fire’s background, but what made Arcade Fire unique was the ability to get nostalgic and talk about something that people can relate to but talking about something that hasn’t been discussed often. They always stayed thematic in their albums, but this doesn’t see a clear direction, it's just a couple of Arcade Fire songs to me.
I honestly am split between on this album. I think it's a weaker record from the band, but it's not because they’re trying a new sound or anything, it's because they’ve already done these types of songs multiple times. As a band that gets ridiculed for being pretentious or limited, they don't prove themselves the opposite at all on this album. I’ll just say that Arcade Fire returns with an album that shows nothing new in their vault, but with that being said, it’s still Arcade Fire.
I honestly will say that I enjoy some of the songs on here, but mainly because I just enjoy Arcade Fire. Their first three albums are staples of indie music and will continue to be that way, but I feel like for them to make another great record, they need to find something else to try or connect with the audience the same way they did on “Funeral” and “The Suburbs”, but that's just me.