I’ve always found it strange that Arcade Fire’s newest album Everything Now received such mixed reception. People seem upset that they went in a different direction for their new material, but 2013’s Reflektor was a much more dramatic shift, and every album has been different anyway. Some have found the aesthetic of the music videos and marketing pretentious and abrasive, but I really don’t get that either. Ever since they’ve had the budget to do it, they’ve been very avant garde, and if anything, the Everything Now tour was a step back from the Reflektor era.
Maybe what bugs people about Everything Now is that it has something to say. Not that Arcade Fire has ever been shy about social commentary, but the new album is incredibly on the nose in its commentary on consumer culture and late capitalism. To say that it’s too obvious, though, is missing the point; it’s not a critique, it’s a parody. They constructed an entire fictional corporation, complete with tacky, shallow infomercials and overt corporate sponsorship, that’s so over the top it cycles back around to not being subversive at all. If you didn’t know it was Arcade Fire, you might not even be able to tell it apart from the stuff it’s making fun of, like Stephen Colbert interviewing Bill O’Reilly.
Arcade Fire’s elaborate social commentary came to a head this past week, with what is presumably the final music video for the album. It’s actually a double music video, combining ‘Put Your Money on Me’ and ‘We Don’t Deserve Love’ into a short film titled Money + Love.
Everything the album explores is in this 15 minute video; the band are shown inside the headquarters of the Everything Now Corp, a suitably grey and drab building filled with branded products and logos over everything. Bankrupt, the band are forced into a brand deal, reducing their stage show to an endless loop of lifeless ads and product placements. In the ‘Put Your Money on Me’ segment, the band flips during a show in a casino, wreaking havoc, and trying to run away from their life as a product of Everything Now Corp. Away from the fake prettiness of the neon lights, ‘We Don’t Deserve Love’ is performed in what looks like a prison courtyard, devoid of life and colour (but not devoid of the ever present Everything Now logo).
It’s a beautiful short film. It says everything the album was trying to say, and does so without the aggressive parody and satire that the live show and other music videos have had. For people who have found this little portion of Arcade Fire’s career to be against their tastes, I reckon there’ll be something to enjoy; neither song has gotten significant airplay compared to ‘Creature Comfort’ or the album’s title track, and the music video feels a more like the short films that were made in support of The Suburbs. If Everything Now felt like a detraction from what you love about Arcade Fire, maybe Money + Love will remind you why you loved them so much in the first place.