On their fifth album, Everything Now, Arcade Fire make their first significant stumble, opting more for style over their typical substance. In their search for what's real in an ephemeral and oversaturated society, they've fallen prey to the very gloss they seek to lampoon, resulting in a lack of the emotion that defined their earlier efforts. Also, with lyrics that are a little too on the nose, much of Everything Now ends up being too clever for its own good, which distracts from some otherwise interesting additions to their catalog. Take the two-part "Infinite Content"/"Infinite_Content," a garage rock blast that morphs into an otherwise dreamy, Suburbs-esque moment. As frontman Win Butler repeatedly spits "All your money is already spent/On infinite content!" and "Infinite content/We're infinitely content," listeners might find themselves wearied from the exaggerated repetition, having gotten the point loud and clear long before he's done shouting. The lyrics found on "Creature Comfort" are another good summation of this issue: in an effort to say something meaningful, Arcade Fire simply sound like they're trying too hard. A handful of standouts will no doubt stand the test of time, but unfortunately not enough for a cohesive and fulfilling statement. Thematic flubs aside, the production and sonic directions on Everything Now sound great. The band recruited an enviable team -- including Daft Punk's Thomas Bangalter, Portishead's Geoff Barrow, Pulp's Steve Mackey, and longtime collaborator Markus Dravs -- that infuses a groove and danceability that Arcade Fire first touched upon on Reflektor. On the bright title track, the dramatically funky "Signs of Life," and the glittering "Electric Blue," Everything Now fully embraces the disco spirit. Elsewhere, the band trades the sparkle of the disco ball for visceral throb, like on the urgent "Creature Comfort," the strutting "Good God Damn," and the hypnotizing "Put Your Money on Me," which sounds like Röyksopp remixing LCD Soundsystem. Peppering Everything Now are some potentially divisive experiments -- like the heavy dub of "Peter Pan" and the New Orleans big-band jam of "Chemistry" -- that don't really fit in with the rest of the album. They're interesting experiments outside the band's comfort zone, but distract from the album's flow. Overall, there is just enough on Everything Now to appease fans and attract newcomers with accessible singles, but as an Arcade Fire record, it's unfortunately too inconsistent and ultimately hollow. Arcade Fire sought to make a Big Statement but instead produced one of their least impactful works.
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AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung