Posted on: May 11, 2022 Posted by: Nick Stulga Comments: 0

Graphic by Sarah Schudt

How do you go about topping a stellar debut album? This is the exact question the band Arcade Fire has been struggling with since the release of their 2004 debut “Funeral.”

The album sent shockwaves through music culture, changing indie rock as we knew it then. However, their most recent album “WE” is just more proof that “Funeral” can’t be topped, even by the band that created it.

Nick Stulga

News Editor

★★☆☆☆

“WE” is the most clichéd Arcade Fire has been so far, minus maybe their spectacular failure of an album “Everything Now,” which came off as a poorly written anthemic pop album. The cringe-worthiness of “Everything Now” has somehow managed to squeeze itself and ooze over into what slowly became “WE.”

“WE” covers many topics, such as being free, exploring yourself, and anxiety. But the album doesn’t feel like it dives deep into a single one. It skims over huge topics, such as race and religion, on the track of the same name. In fact, their sophomore album “Neon Bible” was based on Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler’s religious beliefs, so it makes sense to include a track about the topic in “WE.” Yet the way they go about doing so feels stiff and inauthentic.

With these tracks handling such heavy baggage, it shocked me that the only tracks that caught my attention were the opening track and “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid).” And even that track is a cesspool of generalization and hope that falls flat.

The track starts out with the lyrics “Look out kid, trust your heart/You don’t have to play the part they wrote for you,” which doesn’t send a terrible message, but is super cliché by Arcade Fire standards and comes across with barely any urgency. Later on, the first single off the record, “The Lightning I,” is just as poor in spirit as its predecessors. Butler calls on his sweetheart, possibly his wife Régine Chassagne, to not quit on him, but never explains why she would do such a thing. This kind of shallow writing is present throughout the whole of this messy project.

But out of all the tracks here, it’s the track “Age of Anxiety II (Rabbit Hole)” that really throws the musical trash into the landfill for me.

On this abomination, Butler croons “Rabbit hole, plastic soul,” over and over again on top of a plastic beat with no soul. This, mixed in with random references to Acropolis and French kisses, confuses the meaning out of the track even more. Not only that, but Chassagne annoyingly interjects with the simple word, “Yeah” throughout the entirety of the song.

The final disaster of the album is the ending track “WE.”

On this track, Butler croons, “I wanna give in, I wanna give out” in a country-style drawl with guitar in the background. This isn’t a Western movie. This track is supposed to include the grandiosity of Arcade Fire’s previous work. But it simply isn’t Arcade Fire.

Arcade Fire seems to be taking a Bieber-like route throughout its discography, becoming more stale and general with each passing album, yet still attracting the attention of its cultish fan base. The quality of the music has only continued to fall, and as I listen to “Funeral” at the gym while writing this review, the band’s drop off the cliff hits harder than ever.

“Funeral” was and still is a complete masterpiece, the essential Arcade Fire album, and one of my favorite albums of all time. The lines are hard-hitting, the guitar work is anthemic and larger-than-life, and the message is clear: one of childhood and nostalgia, but also of the weight of living that overpowers us as we grow up.

“WE,” on the other hand, is overly repetitive lyrically and rhythmically. The songs are way too long for their own good. and the message is unclear, skating from topic to topic. If “WE” were a concept album in the same sense that “Funeral” was, then the concept would be that there is no concept, just a mirage of half-formed ideas.

Sorry, but this album might have to be thrown in the Arcade Fire.

Moraine Valley