Consumerism and Arcade Fire’s Everything Now.

The darkness of the modern age engulfs Arcade Fire’s music. Their latest album, Everything Now, seems dystopian – but it’s not. Everything Now presents a cold, hard look at the twenty-first century Western consumerist ideology. 

The first song, and album’s title, ‘Everything Now’ lays out the agenda for the upcoming tracks. ‘Everything Now’ has an upbeat tone but makes for an uneasy listen as the lyrics emphasise the need for consumption. The lyrics describe a world full to the brim. Our minds are landfill as we store too much information: ‘and every song  that I’ve ever heard is playing at the same time it’s absurd’. Everything is one click away and information is available 24/7. We ‘can’t live without’ it. 

The ‘cool kids’ of ‘Signs of Life’ echo the rebellious youths of a Godard film yet they ‘[spend their lives] waiting in line’ and become prisoners of capitalism. If you cannot fight the system, you must escape the system. 

Instead of celebrating a youthful state of being, ‘Peter Pan’ stresses the need to escape the ‘American Dream’. If the uncertainty of what the American Dream is representing adulthood, Peter and Wendy must fly away and find a new destiny. 

Youthful pessimism looms over media language. Arcade Fire observe the toxic storylines of the ideal lifestyle presented in media and show the nasty consequence of that language in ‘Creature Comfort’ and ‘Good God Damn’. The girl filling up the bathtub in both of these songs screams ‘God make me famous. If you can’t just make it painless’. The band write about a very upsetting matter yet highlight the damage media can have on mental health. 

Although portraying touching messages, the lyrics have been marked as simplistic by some fans. However that is an ill-informed argument to make as the repetitive lyrics resemble two things: the pattern of product placement and punk. It is ironic as the two ideas should be on opposite ends of the spectrum. The track ‘Infinite Content’ is short, catchy, and repetitive. It would fit alongside a Ramones song, who represent a transgression from societal norms, therefore Arcade Fire place themselves in the punk philosophy. In contrast the repetition also nods to the constant stream of advertisements surrounding us in the hope we will be brainwashed to buy a product we do not need. 

‘Infinite Content’ and ‘Infinite_Content’ are identical songs and the album has three versions of ‘Everything Now’. Some fans found this lazy when, in fact, it is genius. We are the fools for buying the album with duplicates of the same track. 

The entire campaign for the album has been incredibly meta – from the band spreading fake news about themselves to the Russian spambot account. The Everything Now encorp account managing the band and their merchandise and even creating dress codes for gigs. There’s multiple album covers depending on where you are in the world and they are all slightly different. There’s even a £100+ fidget spinner you can buy. Although it is all one big joke, people are buying all of this stuff. 

Purchasing the album is an act of ‘pledg[ing] allegiance to Everything Now’. I picked up my copy after work and received a free ‘Everything  Now’ tote bag. Wearing that bag makes me a walking advertisement. Handing over my money, I felt foolish as I am the message of the album – and so are you. ‘I need it. I want it. I can’t live without’. I bought it on the day of release as I didn’t want to preorder in case my copy didn’t arrive on time. It’s absurd. 

This album is a work of genius. It’s message extends from the record into the wider world. Out of all of Arcade Fire’s albums to date, this one teaches us the most about ourselves and how we absorb our surroundings. 

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