Arcade Hearth has at all times sounded without delay consultant of and defiantly out of step with its personal time. It’s straightforward to fit the group into the aesthetic of the so-called New Sincerity, a post-9/11 ideology that rejected the earlier micro-generation’s embrace of hip cynicism and postmodern irony. Arcade Hearth, by definition, cared. Numbness and ennui have been its boogeymen. All through the primary decade of its run, the Canadian band launched a collection of free idea albums that focused time-tested opiates of the lots — organized faith on “Neon Bible” in 2007, conformist residing on “The Suburbs” in 2010.
Nonetheless, there was one thing backward-glancing concerning the group — not essentially a foul factor. Arcade Hearth was at its sharpest when it was attempting to puncture the inherited mythology of the midcentury previous. But it surely was by no means fairly as profitable when it shifted its gaze towards the current and commenced raging towards the machines, first on its bold 2013 album, “Reflektor,” and once more on its much less impressed 2017 follow-up, “Everything Now.”
Which is why it’s unlucky that the band doubles down on this method all through a lot of its sixth album, “We,” an LP that needs to be seen as a course correction however nonetheless shares a lot of its predecessor’s thematic fixations. We live by means of an age of tension and the tip of an empire, we’re reminded on songs with grand, explanatory titles like, properly, “Age of Anxiety I” and “Finish of the Empire I-IV.” The primary is a looking out, forlorn opener with rhythmic backing vocals that huff and puff shallowly, as if they’ll by no means fairly catch their breath. The nine-minute, multipart suite “Finish of the Empire” has just a few pleasant twists, however is finally ethereal and obscure, searching for to channel the kind of modernized imaginative and prescient of impending apocalypse that artists like Phoebe Bridgers (“I Know the End”) and Lana Del Rey (“The Greatest”) have not too long ago pulled off extra succinctly and sharply.
“Age of Anxiety II (Rabbit Gap)” has some dazzling musical moments, like when a brooding synth line out of the blue explodes into the evil twin of New Order’s “Weird Love Triangle.” Win Butler and Régine Chassagne co-produced “We” with Nigel Godrich, recognized for his work with Radiohead, and their collaboration makes the extra up-tempo materials pop.
There are just a few cases, although, when head-scratching lyrics take the listener out of what needs to be an ecstatic second. The catchiest and most upbeat quantity on “We” is “Unconditional II (Race and Faith),” a neo-80s pop gem sung by Chassagne with backing vocals from Peter Gabriel. The beat and melodic line are hypnotic, but the track is constructed across the hook “I’ll be your race and faith” — a weighty, loaded (or perhaps simply awkward) assertion that’s by no means unpacked sufficient to make the listener need to sing alongside.
Except for the galvanizing lead single, “The Lightning I, II,” which many heralded as a return to type, the band sounds most comfy on the “We” songs that talk in a folk-rock idiom, just like the understated closing title observe. The candy, rollicking “Unconditional I (Lookout Child)” addresses Butler and Chassagne’s 9-year-old son, imparting to him their very own hard-won life classes whereas reflecting on the restrictions of parental steerage. Name it attentive-dad rock. “There are issues that you could possibly do this nobody else on earth may ever do,” Butler sings warmly, “However I can’t educate you.”
The antidote for the age of tension that this document proposes is comparatively easy: to decide out of the flat and depersonalizing world of the digital rabbit gap and reinvest in IRL private connection. “I wanna get wild, I wanna get free,” Butler sings on the subdued last observe, accompanied by a pastoral-sounding 12-string guitar. “Would you wanna get off this experience with me?” The stakes really feel a bit low, although, as a result of I’m not completely satisfied he was ever on the experience to start with.
Many of the most potent current artwork concerning the agony and ever-diminishing ecstasy of being too on-line — Patricia Lockwood’s sensible novel “No One Is Talking About This,” the previous few albums by the British pop group the 1975 — has spoken the language of the web vividly, with a specificity that implies its authors aren’t completely aside from the tradition they’re critiquing, and that’s exactly what makes their eventual protestations palatable. Arcade Fire’s depictions of our techno-dystopia, as a substitute, really feel extra distant and diffuse.
“I unsubscribe,” Butler sings repeatedly all through “Finish of the Empire,” and Chassagne underlines it together with her backing vocals till the road’s fleeting cleverness wears skinny. However what, precisely, are they relinquishing? Regardless of its occasional moments of brilliance, “We” too typically finds Arcade Hearth caught in a digital maze of its personal design, ignoring the truth that it’s at all times sounded extra at house off the grid.
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