Arcade Fire’s connection to the collective emotion that has been part of their DNA since the olden days, and that’s where the Canadian band finds excuse for their songs with larger-than-life aspirations. And if his previous work, Everything Now (2017), replaced the conceptual thickness of a lighter and more playful songbook, he’s going back to his old ways, starting with the fact that we wrote so clearly in capital letters at WE. Make way for the titan of the pop arena, who one day glances sideways at Springsteen and Bowie approaches him. Now by the hand of Nigel Godrich (architect of Radiohead, among other achievements) presenting a work that presents renewed traces of studio surgery and combines stadium scenery with accent balladism leaning towards crescendo and rock dynamics. It foregrounds a contemporary idea of suffering associated with Russian Yevgueni Zamyatin’s old futurist novel We (1921), a reflection of popular oppression by totalitarian regimes.
Thus, WE tells us about a journey from me to the fulfillment that comes from the consciousness of society, in the darkness of depression and self-medication, the alienation of the mass media and cosmic despair. The evil pandemic dream floats there, the panic of Trump’s leadership and other modern ghosts. The band’s take on a two-beat album, the first half plunged into the age of anxiety, and the other, shaken by lightning, ends in that unassuming, rescuing WE that begins with voice and acoustic guitar and continues to swell. In a way that makes U2 happy. WE are made to fall, despite offering more thickness than excitement at festivals and large venues. Behind the Anxiety Age I portico, its continuation with dense instrumental layers, the Anxiety Age II (Rabbit hole), especially after its synthetic turn, reflects the legacy of Reflector (2013). Then there are the winding litanies of End of Empire, with echoes of Bowie and two episodes of The Lightning that slowly ramps up the tempo, recreating the most classic version of Arcade Fire. The highest point of connection is Unconditional II, where Régine Chassagne’s voice intersects with Peter Gabriel’s voice on a sparkling podium with synth-pop imprints.
After all, with this album, Arcade Fire tells us it has become a modern classic, self-referential and struggling to rise above its former peaks. Here, he bids farewell to multi-instrumentalist Will Butler (who was fired after finishing the album) and distinguished accomplices such as Josh Tillman (Father John Misty), Geoff Barrow (Portishead) and Owen Pallett.