“You don’t get to choose/ Some you win, some you lose…“ Complex but never alienating, Arcade Fire’s sixth album – on which Win and Régine’s nine-year-old son Edwin features (ouch, my heart!) – is mind-meltingly brilliant.
Produced by Nigel Godrich alongside Arcade Fire’s aforementioned husband and wife co-founders/lead singers, WE is separated into two distinct sides: Side “I” (as in the ninth letter of the alphabet) contains three songs exploring personal anxieties and the loneliness of isolation, while its four-track flip side “WE” celebrates the joy of reconnection.
Basically, “I” is for dancing with tears in your eyes and “WE” (the Side) is for hands-in-the-air raving, once lead single The Lightning I, II’s excitable mid-song countdown strikes: “1,2,3,4!”
Side “I” opens with Age of Anxiety I – featuring melodies haunted by Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) – and closes with End of the Empire I-IV; with its forlorn, descending “UH-oh” refrain, the latter somehow channels Imagine. We can’t stop humming Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)’s “Doo-doo-da-doo” vocal melody after just one listen, and this song’s stirring string arrangement is show-stopping.
Such empowering lyricism!: “There are things that you could do that no one else on Earth could ever do… You know how to move your hips and you know God is cool with it” – this one is so emotionally overwhelming! (NB: This is a good point to press pause for a much-needed sobbing break.)
Then the Peter Gabriel-featuring Unconditional II (Race and Religion) – which calls to mind Swedish electro duo The Knife – enters peak rave-cave mode with throbbing bass that begs to be heard through the best quality subwoofers.
Listening to WE (the entire album in full, not just the Side of the same name) pours a doting reminder directly into our earholes that connection is actually a core human requirement.
WE by Arcade Fire is out May 6, including on JB-exclusive white vinyl (pictured above), via Sony.