Arcade Fire – WE

Arcade Fire’s WE is marked as a return from the depths of their career monstrosity Everything Now – unfortunately, it's anything but

Album Review by Tony Inglis | 03 May 2022
  • Arcade Fire - We
Album title: WE
Artist: Arcade Fire
Label: Columbia
Release date: 6 May

Arcade Fire are logging off. The pills don’t work anymore. Watching TV won’t cure the fever. Never mind not watching the fifth season – they’re going to make sure this show is cancelled. Better to just wait for a cleansing biblical thunderstorm to come put an end to this misery. Oh, but wait. Maybe that’s not it. Maybe we should take all these feelings, come together and, you know, put them in a song? 'Could it be me? Could it be we?' sings Régine Chassagne.

Arcade Fire’s WE, marked as a return from the depths of their career monstrosity Everything Now, is unfortunately anything but. It’s a record filled with trite sentiments and well-trodden musical ideas (or in some cases, badly-trodden). Ostensibly split into two competing halves, the first side mimics the anxious disco of Everything Now and Reflektor, building to the multi-pronged Beatles-esque suite of End of the Empire I-IV, the movements of which have no discernible sense of contrast or evolution. Win Butler proselytises about 'the end of the American empire', but haven’t we been here before? They nailed these themes on the astronomically better The Suburbs.

When the violins tune up on side two opener The Lightning, and Butler gives his familiar count-in rallying cry, the sense of communion is a breath of fresh air in comparison. Listening through, it feels like experiencing Arcade Fire’s entire discography and sonic progression in reverse, which would be a neat concept if it didn’t give up on it by the penultimate track, falling back on tribal rhythms and squelchy electronics, again better executed in previous work.

What’s left is a washed, shallow nostalgia. It’s perhaps no surprise after such a poorly received misfire that they should go here, and some of WE will trigger your sentimentality for this once great band, but ultimately it leaves a void. It’s not the end of the empire, and probably not the end of Arcade Fire, but it sounds like it should be.

Listen to: Age of Anxiety I, The Lightning II