Arcade Fire, Benjamin Gibbard, Cage the Elephant music reviews

This week Arcade Fire release their major-label debut, Death Cab for Cutie’s Benjamin Gibbard gives a full-album send-up to a Teenage Fanclub classic, Cage the Elephant release a career-spanning, stripped-down live record, rapper Vic Mensa drops his proper debut full-length, Manchester Orchestra get subtle and deep and Japanese band the Suzan release an EP produced by Bjorn Yttling of Peter Bjorn and John.

Arcade Fire’s “Everything Now”

**

Few albums are as ambitious and yet maddeningly overwrought as Arcade Fire’s “Everything Now.” Honestly, I’m not sure what happened with this album, but it is a sad surprise. The title-track is an outdated, questionable disco number that sounds like a rewrite of Abba’s “Dancing Queen” while the electro-dance number, “Creature Comfort” volleys between shrill and cacophonous extremes.

On “Signs of Life,” backed by street noise and handclaps, Win Butler sings about “those cool kids, stuck in the past” perhaps not even seeing his own sense of irony.

Their last album, “Reflektor,” at least captured a solid mood, even if the songs weren’t really there. Its extended jams made it a bit of an aimless slog but at least it had a consistent mood. This album tries and fails to capture the late-seventies, early-eighties world where artists like David Bowie and Blondie thrived. It ends up often being a bit of a shiny, glam nightmare.
“Infinite Content” pounds itself at you until you just want to make it stop. It shows little mercy, whereas “Chemistry” starts off as a horrid reggae-rock experiment before morphing into cheeseball arena-rock.

The drums on “Peter Pan” thud in an unattractive way, but still it is one of the closest tracks this album has to cohesive single. “Electric Blue” has a decent backdrop that is ruined by Regine Chassagne’s high and harsh vocal approach.

The album does get slightly better as it progresses. There is hope in the “We Don’t Deserve Love,” even if it ultimately does wind up being a tad repetitive and monotonous. But how this album turned into such a mess is a mystery, given that it counts heavyweights like Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter, Pulp’s Steve Mackey and Portishead’s Geoff Barrow among its many producers. This is a surprisingly misguided record, given the expertise of everyone involved, even given the admittedly lackluster quality of “Reflektor.”

The rousing orchestration of “Funeral,” the dark but buoyant…

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