Friday, August 18, 2017

Arcade Fire - "Creature Comfort"

Apparently, I'm not supposed to like Everything Now, the new Arcade Fire album. This is now the second straight disc from them that's been dismissed out of hand almost as soon as it hit iTunes/Amazon.

I confess that I don't quite understand the sudden animosity that now greets this band's every action. I mean, on some level, I do: They are scorned by their detractors as being beyond the pale because of their ambitious, self-serious material. The cultural backlash seemed to occur after The Suburbs, which won them the Album of the Year Grammy, when Win Butler and the group decided to embrace a more dance-heavy sound. Since then, I've noticed that, especially on Film Twitter, it's very fashionable to slag these guys for being too big for their britches. You'd think they were U2 or something.

I wrote about their last album, Reflektor, for Playboy, defending the band's pretensions and arguing why I actually found them endearing, if also more than a bit cumbersome. Everything Now is not dissimilar: It overreaches, it's way too proud of its thematic depth, its songs aren't as great as on past records but, all in all, I enjoy the challenges Arcade Fire give themselves and their audience. In other words, sorry, I don't hate Everything Now.

That said, I don't quite love it, either. My feelings can be summed up by my reaction to "Creature Comfort," which is a ripping synth-pop track that's about ... uh, celebrity and spiritual isolation and maybe suicide and probably the pain of modern life. I'm not totally down with the lyrics, but the emotional struggle at the song's core is pretty compelling, and that's why I still value this band. They wrestle with big ideas, and even when they do so in an ungainly fashion, the friction that comes from it can be rather arresting. I fail to see why this makes them an embarrassment.