fri 23/02/2024

Album: Arcade Fire -WE | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Arcade Fire -WE

Album: Arcade Fire -WE

Canadian indie rock giant's lockdown album is heartfelt and imaginative

Eye, eye

When the pandemic closed in, Canadian experimental indie rock troupe Arcade Fire were on the cusp of heading into the studio to record their new album. COVID had other plans. But rather than pause, the husband and wife duo of Win and Regine Butler continued to work on more songs together.

As they admit, this has ended up being the longest time they’ve spent writing for an album.

The result, WE, is a concise, 40 minute LP that explores the experience of living through a pandemic: the first side is emotive and dark, tinged with isolation and fear; the latter half brighter and celebratory, about forging connections and relationships.

Opening track “Age of Anxiety I” sets the band's stall out with an epic and cinematic take on channelling the inner anxieties prevalent through society. “And the pills do nothing for me in the age of anxiety,” laments Win but musically, it’s an intoxicating elixir, propelled from a piano-led first section, built over a pulsing heartbeat synth, into synthwave-indie rock.

In these seven songs Arcade Fire take some inspiration from classical music structure, and this episodic approach means each unfolds organically. “Age of Anxiety II (Rabbit Hole)” takes the electronic baton passed to it by the opening track’s crescendo and goes further. Win and Regine alternate on vocals to give voice to a kaleidoscopic venture through synths and driving drums. The darker first side culminates in the gloomy “End of Empire I-IV” which paints vivid images of an emotionally deplete America.

But, like morning following night, the anxious and worried first side of WE is followed by positivity and hope found in reconnecting with each other. These last four songs are a sweet, soothing salve, with the first chords of “The Lightning I, II” breaking like rays of sun through a clouded sky. Appropriately, the band incorporate personal human touches to further reflect the joy of reconnecting after the lockdown: Win and Regine’s son features vocally, and Win’s mother is on the harp.

The album ends with titular track “WE”, offering a journey off to somewhere new: “I want to know WE/Want to get off this ride with me?”. It provides closure to what is a compact sojourn through different textures and soundscapes, typical of Arcade Fire’s experimental nature. While some might find the breadth of sounds overwhelming, others will be left craving more, given just how much is squeezed into only 40 minutes.

Below: Watch the video for "The Lightning I, II" by Arcade Fire

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