Premature Premature Evaluation

Premature Premature Evaluation: Arcade Fire Everything Now

Editor’s note: With this piece, we’re inaugurating a new feature—a review before the review before the review of a new album. We hope you like it!

Just a couple of weeks ago, we said that we’re a bit sick of Arcade Fire. In an article headlined “Remember When Arcade Fire Were Good?”, we wrote that the band had lost its creative spark. The truth, we said, is that #FailingArcadeFire are no longer giving us that thing we really liked, back when we were all a little younger and more hopeful. Sad!

Well, we might have published our anti-Arcade Fire jeremiad a little too early. At the time, we had only heard one track from the new album. Now we’ve heard four, and we might be changing our minds. We’re not entirely sure yet—it’s still a little early—but it seems likely that, by the time we get around to writing our actual Premature Evaluation, we will find ourselves predicting that Everything Now will eventually be evaluated as one of the best albums of the year.

What, exactly, will our Premature Evaluation look like? It’s a little too early to say definitively. It’s likely, though, that we’ll compare Everything Now unfavorably to both Funeral and The Suburbs, while calling it a bounceback after Reflektor. We’ll probably spend at least a paragraph talking about the marketing campaign that has accompanied Everything Now—the logos, the corporate-speak, the Twitter account—saying that we get the joke, and maybe even noting that music sites and features like Premature Evaluation (and the new Premature Premature Evaluation) are all part of the same culture-marketing ecosystem.

Then we’ll get to the songs. At this point we’re just guessing, but since the songs we’ve already heard are three dancey ones (“Everything Now,” “Signs of Life,” and “Electric Blue”—all of which we’ll compare favorably but slightly dismissively to LCD Soundsystem) and one slightly electro-goth, we’ll assume that at least two that remain are ballads, in some sense of the word. Based on the song titles, we’ll guess that “Peter Pan” is going to be on the sweeter, more introspective side, though perhaps with a dark edge, while “Good God Damn” is probably a guitar-based rocker, because it’s got “Damn” in the title. We’re in uncharted territory here, so bear with us!

The impact of Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter will be discussed at length, with at least 10 words about him written for every one that mentions the record’s other producer, Pulp’s Steve Mackey. We’ll try to figure out what the creative middle ground between those two guys could possibly have been, and what influence their respective bands had on Arcade Fire. We might compare Arcade Fire’s paper mache heads to Daft Punk’s helmets, reasoning that Arcade Fire are like a goofier, less cool, extremely self-serious, and less danceable Daft Punk, and pointing out that the only connection between the groups is an aura of Frenchness—a vague and somewhat hard to pin down aura of Frenchness, in Arcade Fire’s case.

We’ll definitely tentatively speculate on the track list’s unusual composition: There are three songs called “Everything Now” and two called “Infinite Content,” and clearly they’re meant to provide some kind of throughline. This will either turn out to be a really clever thing (like the “Neighborhood” songs on Funeral) or a total whiff (like the impossible-to-find hidden track on Reflektor). Either way, we’ll mention the band’s respect for the album as a form, not just a collection of songs, while also noting that that respect is somewhat lame and pretentious, evoking as it does the specter of progressive rock.

Eventually we will grudgingly but happily admit that Arcade Fire probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and suggest that, in a few months—after listening to Everything Now enough times to really digest it—we’ll figure out what we really think of it. We may be getting ahead of ourselves here, but we predict it’s likely to come in just a few spots below Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy in our year-end list, probably somewhere between number 8 and number 14.