Cre­ative di­rec­tion takes wrong turn

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC REVIEWS - TONY CLAY­TON-LEA

It be­hoves a band as good as Ar­cade Fire to take stock and jig things around a bit. Changes in style might dis­con­cert the avid fan­base, but what’s the point of be­ing a cre­ative type if you can’t reimag­ine now and again? Right de­ci­sion, wrong de­ci­sion – what­ever comes out in the wash is what­ever comes out. Pub­lish and be damned, and so on. Ret­ro­spec­tive mis­takes can al­ways be rec­ti­fied via live per­for­mances, of course, but once recorded they’re there for­ever. And so it is that Ev­ery

thing Now is per­haps the patchi­est, least ef­fec­tive al­bum that Ar­cade Fire have so far re­leased. From the ir­ri­tat­ing

quasi-con­cep­tual track list­ing (Ev­ery­thing Now, Ev­ery­thing Now Con­tin­ued, Every­thing_Now Con­tin­ued, In­fi­nite Con­tent,

In­finite_Con­tent) to mis­guided side­steps such as Signs of Life (Win But­ler raps and the world laughs), Elec­tric Blue (a solid groove marred by squawk­ing vo­cals from key­boardist Regine Chas­sagne) and Chem­istry (grace­less dance­hall in­flec­tions spoiled by an­other But­ler rap), Ar­cade Fire’s fifth al­bum, for the most part, hob­bles along like a ten­nis player with a twisted an­kle.

That pro­duc­tion du­ties are shared by long­time ally Markus Drave, Daft Punk’s Thomas Ban­gal­ter and (more cu­ri­ously) Pulp’s Steve Mackey merely adds to the frac­tured na­ture of the al­bum.

This be­ing Ar­cade Fire, how­ever, there are mo­ments of per­fec­tion. The two In­fi­nite

Con­tent tracks are chalk-and-cheese bril­liant, the first head-kick punk rock, the sec­ond gen­tle folksi­ness.

The ti­tle track is eas­ily one of this year’s best tunes, with hints of Abba and Talk­ing Heads ref­er­ences, disco teases, pi­ano-driven melody lines and strings to die for. Best of all, though, is of­fi­cial clos­ing track We Don’t De­serve Love, a frag­ile, woozy bal­lad that ini­tially points to melan­choly yet grasps rap­ture in its clos­ing min­utes.

It’s a salu­tary re­minder of how ter­rific Ar­cade Fire can be, yet that mix­ture of solem­nity and wide-eyed won­der is frus­trat­ingly scat­tered here.

AR­CADE FIRE Ev­ery­thing Now Columbia

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