Arcade Fire – We
Five years after the release of 2017’s Everything Now, Arcade Fire are back with their sixth studio album We, formed in collaboration with producer Nigel Godrich (known for his tenure with Radiohead), and featuring guests that include Peter Gabriel (of Genesis fame) and Josh Tillman (more widely known as Father John Misty) on drums. We is best listened to in its entirety, and, as you would expect from an Arcade Fire album, is steeped in sprawling thematic notions that call for togetherness in a time where fears of isolation and loneliness are ever-present. It’s no surprise that this album was reconceptualised during the pandemic era, which disrupted their original recording plans in February 2020.
Unlike their other records, We clocks in at a rather unassuming 40 minutes, their shortest to date if you don’t count their 2003 EP Arcade Fire (aka Us Kids Know). But, what you get is a finely-tuned and fully realised entry to their catalogue that feels leaner and without the bloat of Everything Now. “It was the longest we’ve ever spent writing uninterrupted, probably ever,” says frontman Win Butler.
It’s a peculiar album, full of competing styles that somehow meld together, and at times feels like an amalgamation of their earlier work without ever feeling like retrodden ground. There’s a bit of everything in there, from Age of Anxiety I, a track so infused with the electronic rhythms of 2013’s Reflektor that it could easily pass as an earlier entry to their oeuvre. Other tracks are more stripped back and intimate; none more so than the album’s title track We, which one could mistake as a solo outing from primary songwriter Butler, and again, with the heartfelt ode to his and Chassagne’s son in Unconditional I (Lookout Kid), the singer’s tender vocals re-establish his ability to cut his audience to the core.
The album’s crowning achievement, End of the Empire I-IV, a towering epic at the centre of We, is a sprawling four-part lament on a commercialised American culture devoid of emotion: “We got one life / And half of it’s gone / You know I can’t sleep / With the television on.” It’s Bowie with added cynicism, a bold and operatic centre-piece that, much like 2010’s The Suburbs, attempts to grapple with social commentary and the wider implications of living in the shadow of the digital age.
We is undoubtedly the Montreal band’s best album in years. Nearly 20 years on from their stellar debut Funeral, in the era of Spotify playlists and music tastes being dictated by way of algorithm, Arcade Fire continue to make the best case for the concept studio album and set the bar for what modern indie can be.
We is released on 6th May 2022. For further information or to order the album visit Arcade Fire’s website here. The album is available in Hi-Res on Qobuz and all the major streaming services.
Watch the video for the single The Lightning I, II here: